Dangers of teachers & students using social networks

By Curt Autry - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - What would your reaction be if you found out your child was facebook friends with one of their teachers? The Department of Education thinks it's a slippery slope.

In fact the Department of Education will vote on a set of guidelines next month that would put strict limits on social media, text messages and even phone calls, between students & teachers. This plan to prevent sexual misconduct seems pretty clear cut, but it's not without controversy.

He was the guy at Osborn High all the kids seemed to love. But according to prosecutors, 50-year-old Manassas teacher Kevin Ricks used his MySpace page to infiltrate the lives of teenage boys, plying them with gifts and alcohol soaked parties in exchange for sex. Prosecutors suspect he may have been abusing boys for decades. Even parents were fooled.

"My daughter had him - seemed like a nice teacher," one parent said.

In Hanover County, former shop teacher Craig Linnon allegedly confided in student, Nick Hodges, that his future wife had fantasies of sex involving a student. Hodges, who was 16 years old at the time, testified against the teacher claiming he got a text message from Linnon asking him to pleasure his wife.

"I remember showing my friend the text message, so I mean, I know that it was true, I guess you could say," said Hodges.

Linnon was acquitted in this case, but he and his wife face more similar charges.

The proposed guidelines for the prevention of sexual misconduct & abuse in Virginia public schools makes clear that most text messaging and social networking between teachers & students should be taboo because according to Charles Pyle, with the Virginia Department of Education, they often can lead to trouble.

"We see common factors and one common factor is electronic communications, conversations, digital conversations that are taking place in private, in secret, without the knowledge of administrators -- and without the knowledge of parents," said Pyle.

And Charles has a point. The website badbadteachers.com breaks down sex crimes involving teachers and students by state. Click on Virginia and you'll see that many cases involve text messages, and MySpace or Facebook encounters.

But long-time educator, NBC12 education consultant Bill Bosher says don't blame the medium. He says Facebook and iPhones are not to blame.

"You don't get rid of a phone because people make abusive calls, you don't abolish paper, because people write nasty notes -- and you won't change behavior by trying to get a genie back in the bottle like social networking," said Bosher.

The Department of Education is scheduled to vote on these guidelines at the March 24 meeting.

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