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VOL. 129 | NO. 122 | Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Records Show Teacher Discipline on the Rise

AP

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) – The number of public school teachers facing disciplinary action in Tennessee is on the rise, and social media could be partly to blame.

A Chattanooga Times Free Press review of disciplinary data over the past decade data shows teachers are increasingly failing to maintain appropriate boundaries as the proliferation of social media facilitates constant communication between teacher and student.

The review found that 160 teachers have been disciplined for crossing the line with students or other minors since 2004. Some were caught sending inappropriate messages. Others had sexual relationships with their students. Many lost their teaching licenses after they were convicted of crimes like child abuse or statutory rape.

At least 113 teachers have faced suspension or revocation of their teaching licenses for possessing or consuming alcohol, marijuana, prescription pills or cocaine at school, school events or field trips.

About another 30 have been disciplined for offenses like cheating on licensure exams, breaching testing security protocol, falsifying student grades or altering transcripts.

Only one case over the past decade involved educator incompetence.

In all, records show the Tennessee State Board of Education has taken action against 434 teachers in the past 10 years, but the numbers have been increasing. In 2005, the board disciplined 33 teachers. In 2013, the number was 51. Already in 2014, the board has taken action against 27 teachers.

And while the percentage of Tennessee's 65,000 public school teachers facing discipline is small, advocates say some cases – particularly those involving sexual misconduct – come at a high cost to vulnerable children.

Terri Miller is president of the national advocacy group Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation. She said that while tracking of such cases is poor, it's clear that too many teachers get away with sexual misconduct. Statistics gathered by school attorneys show that perpetrating teachers offend an average of three times before facing punishment.

Miller said social media and texting are causing even more problems between teachers and students because people will text or type something that they aren't willing to say in person.

"Policies need to be very strict in what kinds of communication is allowable between teachers and students," Miller said.

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, www.timesfreepress.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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