Posts Tagged ‘Texting’

Should Teachers be able to Text Students?

November 4, 2012

I completely agree with Alan Howe, who argues that it should be a crime for teachers to text a student without sending the same message to the parents of the child.

Some recent court cases have me thinking that we should update another Victorian law – as quickly as we can.

A scan of the evidence given in a series of trials over the last seven years involving predatory teachers abusing children in their care shows an alarming correlation.

Eltham North physical education teacher Karen Ellis had sex with a 15-year-old student of hers. She said she was in love with him. She was then married, with three children.

You’d reckon a part-time job and three kids would keep a young mum busy enough, but multi-tasking Ellis found time to send one young man 499 text messages in three months.

They had sex six times before the boy’s mother worked things out.

Ellis, sounding as dumb as she looks, said that she might have still been with the boy had he been older and the circumstances different. But he wasn’t, and they weren’t.

After lenient County Court judge John Smallwood suspended her sentence, three Court of Appeal judges more sensibly decided Ellis should be jailed.

Another female phys ed teacher, Belinda Campbell, was suspended from teaching after being found to have kissed a boy to whom she sent 200 text messages.

The trend is as clear as your ring tone: predatory teachers are using text messages to criminally prepare kids for sex that not only disrupts their school years, but can scar them for life.

They prefer text messaging for several reasons:

It doesn’t involve a ringing phone that could attract a parent’s attention – you know, like the way you might ask your son why his phone had just gone off 1000 times.

A silent communication can also be made at any hour.

Unlike an email, of which there might be a physical manifestation such as a printout – a text message is slyly elusive.

And unlike a family laptop, the mobile is not a shared device. It’s in your pocket.

The problem is obvious, and so is the solution.

Any Victorian teacher sending a text message to a child under their care, supervision or authority should be required to copy in that student’s parent or guardian.

Not to do so should be a criminal offence.

There will be a small degree of inconvenience in this, like there is in passing through security at the airport.

But it will do the trick in an instant.

The Victorian Institute of Teachers disciplinary panel found her guilty of serious misconduct, but suspended her for only a year.

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Online Bullying Has Yet to Reach It’s Peak

November 10, 2011

A recent study into bullying may have fond that online bullying isn’t as prevalent as regular bullying, but it is still early days.

A new study entitled Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Networks confirms much of what we already know about cyberbullying. Most kids aren’t bullied and most kids don’t bully either online or off.

In fact, the study–conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project for the Family Online Safety Institute and Cable in the Classroom–concluded that “[m]ost American teens who use social media say that in their experience, people their age are mostly kind to one another on social network sites.” Nearly seven in ten (69 percent) of teens said that peers are mostly kind while 20 percent said peers are mostly unkind with 11 percent saying, “it depends.”

Fifteen percent of teens say they have been the “target of online meanness.” When you include in-person encounters, 19 percent say they’ve been “bullied” in the past year.

These numbers track very closely with previous scientific surveys on bullying and cyberbullying. The largest source of bullying (12 percent) was in person, followed by text messaging (9 percent). Eight percent said they had been bullied via email, a social networking site or instant messaging and 7 percent were bullied via voice calls on the phone. Girls are more likely to have experienced what we typically call “cyberbullying,” while boys and girls are roughly equal when it comes to in person bullying.

Online bullying may be less prevalent but it is arguably more damaging. It is generally accepted that since online bullying invades the victim’s home (traditionally a place of comfort and safety), it has a much more powerful effect. Another reason that online bullying is potentially more oppressive is that there can be many more bystanders and participants online. Facebook bullying can be shared between hundreds rather than just handful of kids in the schoolyard.

And let’s not kid ourselves. Bullies don’t discriminate between mediums. A bully doesn’t throw their weight around in person and then become an angel online.  Bullying is bullying, no matter what the medium.  The experts are telling us online bullying is not the major form of bullying that some believe it to be.

That may be true, but it’s early days …

Sexual Harassment Rampant in Schools

November 7, 2011

Just when you thought that respect for girls and women was on the marked improve comes yet another reminder that things are not what they seem:

During the 2010-11 school year, 48 percent of students in grades 7-12 experienced some form of sexual harassment in person or electronically via texting, email and social media, according to a major national survey being released Monday by the American Association of University Women.

 The harassers often thought they were being funny, but the consequences for their targets can be wrenching, according to the survey. Nearly a third of the victims said the harassment made them feel sick to their stomach, affected their study habits or fueled reluctance to go to school at all.

The survey, conducted in May and June, asked 1,002 girls and 963 boys from public and private schools nationwide whether they had experienced any of various forms of sexual harassment. These included having someone make unwelcome sexual comments about them, being called gay or lesbian in a negative way, being touched in an unwelcome sexual way, being shown sexual pictures they didn’t want to see, and being the subject of unwelcome sexual rumors.

The survey quoted one ninth-grade girl as saying she was called a whore “because I have many friends that are boys.” A 12th-grade boy said schoolmates circulated an image showing his face attached to an animal having sex.

In all, 56 percent of the girls and 40 percent of the boys said they had experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment during the school year.

After being harassed, half of the targeted students did nothing about it. Of the rest, some talked to parents or friends, but only 9 percent reported the incident to a teacher, guidance counselor or other adult at school, according to the survey.

In my view there are two main reasons for this disturbing set of figures:

1.  Schools have become hamstrung when it comes to access to appropriate and effective consequences for infringements such as bullying and harassment.  Call the parents?  No big deal.  They gave up long ago.  Suspensions?  Nowadays you get a suspension for talking out of turn.  Suspensions have lost their impact because they are metered out out too readily.  In the end, no punishment given seems to come close to matching the crime.

2.  Schools have been notorious at turning a blind eye to incidents.  I am not talking about all schools, yet in truth, plenty goes under this category.  Teachers have been taught not to get emotionally involved with their students.  The result being, an emotional distance which inhibits the teachers capacity to pick up on these things,  Teachers must have enough of a connection with their students (within the obvious professional parameters of course), as to notice when things are not right with their them.  They are intrusted to look after their students and must do so by being proactive.  Kids are told from an early age not to dob on a classmate.  If teachers wait around for things to get reported to them, they will miss the opportunity to intervene and change a potentially abusive situation.

We must expect schools to be proactive with harassment.  They must be able to use tough and uncompromising punishments and show enough of an interest in students as to detect a problem before it gets completely out of hand.

Laws That Seek To Protect Our KIds Fail Them

October 9, 2011

The same laws that seek to protect children are being severely undermined by a total lack of common sense.

Australia has a sexual offender registry which was designed to assist the government authorities to keep track of the residence and activities of sex offenders.  You don’t have to be Einstein to realise that being on that list is detrimental to that person’s ability to get a job, loan, sense of freedom and quality of life.

The registry is a vital tool in dealing with pedophiles.  That is why I was astounded to read that children caught ‘sexting’ photos of themselves or friends have been put on this very list:

HUNDREDS of teenagers have been charged over producing or distributing child pornography amid growing concern that “sexting” has reached epidemic levels.

In the past three years, more than 450 child pornography charges have been laid against youths between the ages of 10 and 17, including 113 charges of “making child exploitation material”.

More than 160 charges were laid in 2010 alone – 26 more than in 2008.

Parents and communities continue to grapple with the issue of “sexting”, where sexual images are exchanged via SMS.

Teens who engage in sexting not only risk child pornography charges, but can also be listed alongside serial pedophiles and rapists on sexual offender lists.

Police confirmed that some juvenile offenders appear on Queensland’s sex offender registry.

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said “a lack of parental supervision” was a key factor.

“They’re ignorant of the law and no one’s ever sat them down and said ‘When you take a picture of yourself and send it, that’s child pornography’,” he said.

Dr Carr-Gregg said a conviction would have a “catastrophic” effect on a teenager’s future.

“If a young person is put on the sex offenders registry, they have to notify police every time they change their hair colour and wouldn’t easily get visas to places overseas, and it’s going to make employment difficult,” he said.

Don’t get me wrong, I am totally against the practice of “sexting”.  I don’t like it one bit.  But these kids are not sex offenders.  One of the reasons children shouldn’t be ‘sexting’ in the first place is to make sure those images don’t get in the hands of a real sex offender.

The application of this law does 2 very serious things.

1.  It paints children wrongly as sex offenders.  This may have dire consequences down the track; and

2. Having ‘phony’ sex offenders on a sex offender registry completely undermines the registry in the first place.  This is a very serious list, dedicated to sick and evil people.  It shouldn’t be undermined by including silly kids who made poor choices.

It is time the Government stepped in and amended the law so common sense can be restored.

Teacher Escapes With 3-Month Ban for Kissing Student

September 13, 2011

Unprofessional behaviour sets a terrible example for teachers and undermines the essence of what teaching is all about.  Parents send their kids to us hoping we can help make them safe and take care of them.  When teachers break that trust and cross the line of professional standards there must be consequences befitting the crime.

To get a three-month suspension for kissing a student is a disgrace that cheapens the entire teaching profession:

Emma Walpole, 28, had accepted lifts from three of her year 13 pupils — aged 17 or 18 — and made sexually provocative comments to one during the journey. She invited another into her home where she tried to give him alcohol and kiss him.

She admitted unacceptable professional conduct. In a ruling published by the General Teaching Council, the committee said that Miss Walpole would be suspended for three months but felt further sanctions were not necessary as she had expressed remorse and it was felt she would not pose a further threat.

The council was told that Miss Walpole, a teacher at Denstone College in Uttoxeter, Staffs, had befriended the pupils between September 2007 and June 2010.

She sent and received about 25 inappropriate text messages with one of the youngsters between May 2010 and June 2010, some of them of a sexual nature. In May 2010, she requested that he give her a lift in his car and made “sexually provocative” comments to him during the journey.

I’m glad that Miss Walpole regrets her actions and has promised not to reoffend but that doesn’t excuse her behaviour.  The punishment received is tantamount to a slap on the wrist.  It sends the message to other teachers that they can exploit teenagers for the barest of consequences.

Miss Walpole should consider herself very lucky.  If I was on the Council I wouldn’t have been anywhere near as charitable.

Should Teachers Have Students as Facebook Friends?

April 12, 2011

My answer to this question is a categorical no.  Whilst my own teachers were generous with their time, even giving out their phone numbers (when I was in 12th grade) to offer help after hours, this sort of generosity is now just plain unprofessional.  Teachers should not accept invitations to be Facebook friends with their students, nor should they be giving out their phone numbers.

It seems that this issue is a concern around the world.  A study was recently conducted in Ontario, which featured the following recommendations:

A report, to be released Monday, recommends teachers neither accept — nor send out — Facebook friend requests involving students. They should avoid texting, and never communicate by email using a personal account, says the advisory from the Ontario College of Teachers, the body that oversees the profession.

Online communications should be via “established education platforms” such as web pages set up for a school project or class, says the report, obtained by the Toronto Star.

Teachers should also only contact students electronically during the same times they’d feel comfortable calling home.

“When we are communicating with students, face-to-face or in more traditional ways, we are trying to replicate that in other media,” said Michael Salvatori, the college’s registrar.

“The informal language of texting is not the kind of interaction a teacher and student would have … there are lots of ways teachers can be available for students without texting.”

The report comes as school boards try to figure out how to create rules around the use of social media, without hampering efforts by educators to engage students by using it.

And, increasingly, just as in their real life, teachers’ conduct online is also coming under scrutiny. Recently, in the U.S., teachers have been suspended for posting inappropriate comments on their personal Facebook pages, on their own time; one said he hated his job and students, another compared herself to a “warden” supervising “future criminals.”

This is only the third advisory the college has ever issued, and it will follow up with information sessions around the province this month and next.

Few school boards have a social media policy as yet, trusting to general guidelines around teacher and online conduct to cover it for now.

That’s because social media has exploded in the past few years, said Paul Elliott, vice-president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which put out a pamphlet for teachers on the issue a while ago.

It’s the newly graduated teachers who tend to have a tough time at the start, he added.

They’ve been active on Facebook, and they are moving into a profession where behaviour that wasn’t considered objectionable before is now inappropriate — such as posting a picture enjoying a beer with friends, he said.

As for texting, it can sometimes prove “a useful tool of communication in the classroom, with the curriculum — but that’s the only time it should be in use,” he said.

The college has also warned teachers that anything they post online can be altered, and that “innocent actions” can be “easily misconstrued or manipulated.” The report cites several disciplinary cases, albeit extreme ones, where emails or other online communications were involved.

There is no good reason for a teacher to be communicating with students through Facebook or any other forms of social media.  While I respect and appreciate my teachers for giving me the opportunity to call on them after hours with queries or concerns, I don’t think the current day teacher should be allowed to do the same today.  Teachers must be responsible and careful in their dealing with their students.  There is nothing responsible about being a Facebook friend with your student.


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