|Updated: 5/24/2012 9:09 am
||Published: 5/23/2012 5:10 pm
There have been a number of sex scandals involving teachers in Oklahoma this year.
In the last twelve months at least eleven teachers in Oklahoma have been accused of inappropriate relationships with students.
The question continues to be asked: should teachers be friending students on Facebook or following them on Twitter, giving out their cellphone numbers and texting or e-mailing?
In a FOX23 investigation Crime Reporter Abbie Alford talked with a student who admits she had sex with her teacher and says social media is helping to fuel inappropriate relationships.
“There wasn't a thought in my head ‘okay he's your teacher you should stop’. It wasn't until afterwards I was like okay he is my teacher but I am still looking past it,” said the 18-year old student.
When you were a child you talked to your teacher in the hallway or in the classroom. Now you have Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging and that can turn good teachers into bad teachers.
In Green Country, there was a popular teacher who got busted for having sex with his student.
“He was one of those pretty cool teachers,” said the student.
She requested she remain anonymous.
The teacher had a crush on the 18-year-old student.
"He basically saw that I was smart, unique, goal-setted person."
The relationship started with flirting in the classroom, text messaging, which made it easier to hide.
"Everyday, every hour until I went to bed,” said the student.
Her mom said she had her suspicions.
"If you don't delete his number I will go to the school” said the mother.
She trusted her daughter would listen to her. However, within two weeks her daughter and teacher were having sex.
The relationship fueled by secret meetings and conversations online. It lasted a month before a friend told the school.
"The next time I found out the cops were at my door,” said the mother. "I felt betrayed."
The parents of a Sand Springs student felt betrayed too. Police caught up with their 17-year old son at a Tulsa hotel with his 27-year old teacher Erin Queen, on Spring Break.
"It's a violation of sacred trust and it's unacceptable,” said Sand Springs Public Schools Superintendent Lloyd Snow, Ph.D.
He’s been a superintendent for more than three decades and the case of Erin Queen shocked him.
"It's alarming and it's unacceptable and it's just heartbreaking. It's hard for me to believe,” said Snow.
FOX23 requested documents from the Oklahoma State Board of Education involving teacher certification revocations since 2008. 20 teachers had their certifications revoked due to child sex crimes. In 72% of those cases they involved sexual crimes with a student.
These teachers were band directors, coaches, special education teachers. They were teachers in high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools.
Most are men, but a handful are women hooking up with students where the relationship flourishes behind a veil of social media, texting and e-mails.
"Does it hurt, does it get us in a position where you say 'what'? It stuns you but you have to take another deep breath and go to work,’ said Snow.
However, only 40 school districts across the country have a social media policy or are revising them this fall. Of the major school districts who responded to FOX23's request in Green Country, Broken Arrow Public Schools passed a strict social media policy in March.
BAPS covers everything from Facebook, Twitter, texting and blogging.
The teachers policy is three pages and the students’ is two pages, which mainly covers cyberbulling.
The teachers policy extends to their personal page which includes teachers not having private conversations online or text and it must be public.
If they use it in the classroom parents must be informed in writing and teachers and staff are encouraged to keep their privacy settings on the most restrictive level.
Snow admits at Sand Springs the district needs this kind of policy, but said its not as simple as putting it in 140 characters or less.
"We've had the conversation but we haven't tried to write a 20 page manual because so much is what is the proper relationship or what's their right?" said Snow.
Meantime, they're having common sense conversations with their teachers about what clearly oversteps the boundaries between a teacher and student.
"Our system works but we are not exempt, but that just makes folks like me and others more determined we can do everything we can possibly to ensure we avoid things that we might be able to avoid,” said Snow.
Even in this digital age, the bottomline is that if schools don’t preemptively address the issue nothing may change.
“I'll be here when she hurts later. I'll be here. Nobody but me because he wont,” said the mother.
One thing that won't change is the naivety and vulnerability of teenagers.
"He was different, he wasn't just out to have sex or out to have sex with me. It was more like he wanted to be there more as a friend,” said the student.
At Tulsa Public Schools the school board has tabled a social media policy. TPS Spokesperson Chris Payne said school attorneys recommended teachers not friend students on Facebook unless they have parent permission. School board members are reviewing current district policy to see if it covers social media behavior.
The state of Missouri was in the spotlight last year when lawmakers banned teachers from friending students on facebook. Legislators backed away from that because educators said it was a learning tool. However, districts are required to come up with their own social media policies.
Those teachers who had their certification revoked include James Ellis Jr., 60, who pleaded guilty in Cleveland County to Forcible Oral Sodomy and 22 counts of Lewd Acts with a 13-year-old student in 2008.
In 2009, Vicky Lewallen, 48, pleaded guilty in Cleveland County to two counts of Forcible Oral Sodomy involving 16-year-old student.
Ashley Flores, 30, pleaded guilty in Kay County to Forcible Sodomy and four counts of Second Degree Rape involving a 14-year-old student.
James Gilbertson, 30, pleaded guilty to two counts of Rape by Instrumentation, Sexual Battery, and two counts of Forcible Sodomy and no contest to Sexual Battery in Logan County involving a 15-year-old student.
In Canadian County, Steven Cardenas, 34, pleaded guilty to three counts of Second Degree Rape involving a 17-year-old student.
In 2010, Special Education teacher Shelly Fry, 37, agreed to a deferred sentence in Osage County where she agreed not to teach or volunteer in a school for three years for having sex with one of her students. Her teaching certificate expires on June 30th.
In 2011, Stephanie Harris, 31, pleaded no contest in Sequoyah County to one count of First Degree Rape and three counts of Soliciting Sexual Conduct or Communication with a minor by use of technology. Also in 2011, John Coley, 34 pleaded guilty in Bryan County to one count of Lewd Acts with a Child under age 16.
Samuel Bellows, 26, was convicted in May 2011 for lewd molestation involving a 16-year-old student in Atoka County.
In Washington County, Jeffrey Wade, 48, pleaded guilty to one count of Forcible Sodomy, Oral Sodomy, Rape by Instrumentation and Second Degree Rape involving a 16-year-old student.
In 2013, Jeremy J. Smith’s, 27, teacher certification will be revoked after pleading guilty in Stephens County for one count of Second Degree Rape by Instrumentation involving a student.
Bradley Matlock, 46, also pleaded guilty in Cherokee County for having sex with a 16-year-old student. His teacher certification is under review.