Reports of improper teacher-student relationships in Texas have increased dramatically in the past eight years, reaching a high of 222 in 2016, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.
DeEtta Culbertson, spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency, said the growing use of social media has contributed to the rise in such incidents.
“The use of social media — texting, Snapchat and the like — actually provides teachers with more access to students – day and night,” she said. “These platforms give teachers more opportunities to push their professional and personal boundaries with students. But, at the same time, they also create a record of those exchanges that can be used later as evidence.”
The result is more investigations by the TEA, which oversees teachers’ licenses. The number of reports investigated by the agency has risen from 123 in 2008 to 222 this fiscal year, which ended Aug. 31, according to the American-Statesman and the TEA.
The TEA has seven investigators and 1,110 open cases, according to the American-Statesman. It’s asking the Legislature for two more investigators and an administrator to oversee the investigations unit, Culbertson said.
A number of recent cases of teachers having improper relationships with students have been reported in North Texas.
▪ Stryker Dan Strickland, 34, a teacher and coach in the Northwest school district, was arrested in August after a woman told authorities that he touched her inappropriately in 2011 when she was a 15-year-old Springtown High School student.
▪ In February, Farley Simon, 60, a JROTC instructor at Irving High School, was arrested and charged with having sex with a 17-year-old at the high school.
▪ Also in February, Alina Leung, a sixth- and seventh-grade teacher at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth, was arrested and accused of having an improper relationship with a 15-year-old student.
▪ Kelly Dan Williams, 62, a special education teacher in the Mansfield school district, was arrested in June 2015 and accused of aggravated sexual assault of a child and improper relationship between an educator and student.
▪ Kaitlyn Granado, 24, an Irving MacArthur High School teacher, was arrested in March and again in April of last year, accused of having improper relationships with two students.