Teachers accused of misconduct puts district policies in the spotlight

KDBC
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 1:15am

Three teachers in the Borderland are being accused of having improper contact with their students.

Investigations are underway at Riverside High School, Bowie High School, and Moye Elementary School.

Former Bowie High teacher, Eleazar Venzor has been charged with "improper relationship between educator/student."

At Riverside High School, a social studies teacher, who has yet to be named, is being accused of having improper contact with a student.

An unnamed employee at Moye Elementary School was removed from campus after being accused of sexual assault.

All three cases have surfaced in the month of February.

The accusations put school district policies in the spotlight - from hiring to training teachers to prevent these alleged incidents from happening.

Several districts have responded to the alleged incidents by saying they have an extensive program for their staff to prevent inappropriate behavior from happening in their schools.

Canutillo Independent School District told Local4News their new teachers are required to attend "an extensive orientation" that includes covering policies regarding teacher-student relationships.

Once hired, CISD teachers are also required to attend a "teacher initiation" once a month for an entire year when those policies are reviewed.

After their first year with the district, CISD says all teachers must attend an annual orientation when district policies are reviewed again.

The El Paso Independent School District says they have similar procedures and conduct "extensive background checks on all new employees."

EPISD said, "We expect that our employees maintain the highest level of professionalism in their contact with our students. We take all allegations brought to our attention seriously and investigate them fully."

The El Paso Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel represents EPISD employees and gives them information and training on the district policies, which includes proper teacher-student relationships.

EPFTSP says they try and especially highlight how teachers use social media and email to contact their students.

According to EPFTSP, EPISD policy does not allow teachers to connect with students on social media like Facebook or Instagram, unless that student is related to the teacher.

Teachers are also not allowed to text message with students unless the teacher is contacting students about an extracurricular activity.

EPISD teachers can email students but must use their district emails. All messages sent by a teacher using their district emails can be accessed and monitored by the school district at any time.

"You're supposed to be a role model for them. A positive role model. And you're not their friend. You are an adult," said Lucy Clark with the EPFTSP.

One national advocate says if teachers cross the line it could have long-term effects on the student.

"I did not report what happened to me and ten years after I got away from that teacher, I found out that two teenage girls were being raped by him," said Andrea Clemens, an advocate for S.E.S.A.M.E. "Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation."

Clemens says improper contact between students and teachers can lead to problems like depression and difficulty trusting a romantic partner in the future.

But perhaps most importantly, she says no matter who initiates the contact, students are the victims when a teacher takes advantage of them when they are still developing emotionally.

"I don't care if that student is naked in front of them, I don't care if they put themselves in front - a teacher is not supposed to cross that line, they're supposed to set them straight and tell them this is not okay behavior."

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