ALABAMA EPIDEMIC: WHAT EDUCATORS ARE DOING TO HALT INAPPROPRIATE TEACHER/STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS

Nearly 200 inappropriate relationships between students and their teachers have been investigated in Alabama since 2011.

Associate General Council Susan Crowther with the Alabama State Department of Education said steps are being taken to ensure student safety and enforce existing laws and regulations.

In May 2013, Alabama’s mandatory reporting law was amended. The change specified that public and private kindergarten-12th grade employees and postsecondary employees are mandated reporters.

Such individuals now directly report illicit behavior to the Department of Human Resources or law enforcement. Previously, they were only required to report these issues to their supervisor.

Starting last year, Alabama began offering additional online training for mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect. The Alabama Board of Education has also increased communication of existing laws and policies to local schools and systems.

The Office of General Counsel, which represents the state BOE during administrative hearings for teacher certification revocations, has prioritized cases involving allegations of teacher/student misconduct. This includes cases involving non-criminal but unprofessional behavior.

In Alabama, local superintendents are required by law to report to the state superintendent anyone who is fired or placed on administrative leave. According to the state BOE, the law has resulted in more allegations being reported and acted upon.

Local attorney Jeff Smith sees a common profile when it comes to victims.
“They’re going to pick someone that is susceptible. Maybe they’re from a broken home, maybe their parents aren’t involved, maybe they have some ongoing issue.”

According to Smith, once the predator has targeted a victim, the grooming process begins.
“They will develop a relationship that will start to isolate them, spending time alone with them, start trying to fill that need, building that bond, building that bond of trust. Once they’ve established that relationship of trust, then they begin to sexualize the relationship.”

Smith gives this advice to parents, “Trust your instincts, follow your kids on Instagram, Snapchat, all those things, monitor their social media.  They’re children, they don’t have the judgement  to really perceive what’s happening sometimes before it’s too late.”

 

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