Why we’re seeing more cases of student-teacher relationships
A Cherokee High School teacher is arrested at his Haddon home and charged for an "ongoing sexual relationship" with a female student.
An English teacher in Montgomery is put in cuffs for an alleged inappropriate texting exchange — including naked pictures — with a student that lasted several months.
These incidents, just in October, represent a sixth of the New Jersey teacher arrests for sexual offenses involving students so far in 2018, according to a group devoted to preventing this type of abuse.
From 2014 through 2017, Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation (SESAME) was alerted of 70 such teacher arrests in the Garden State, and nearly 2,200 nationwide.
In 2017, New Jersey saw 22 arrests, possibly linked to the explosion of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, the group said. The three years prior recorded an average of 16 arrests.
"Our schools are not doing what they should to address this child safety issue," said SESAME President Terri Miller. "It is the one child endangerment issue that is completely ignored — there's no drills, there's no protocols, there's no information that's being provided to prevent it."
In the overwhelming majority of cases, Miller said, the teacher is the first to initiate a level of inappropriateness that could gradually evolve into something more.
Although it doesn't work to prevent abuse in the first place, a "pass the trash" law enacted in June requires school districts to review the employment history of job applicants to check for allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct.
A current piece of legislation would require all candidates for teaching certification to receive training on the recognition of child abuse, and the requirement to report it. The measure was approved by the full Senate in June and awaits action in the Assembly.
"New Jersey teachers and all school employees are held to the highest standards and know that there is no tolerance for inappropriate relationships with students," said Steven Baker, director of communications for the New Jersey Education Association.
The number of teachers arrested for sexual offenses has increased nationwide each year since 2014, according to SESAME.
Miller said advances in technology could be to blame for a spike in incidents.
"Back before cell phones ... we knew who our kids were talking to," she said. "Today, kids have their own phones, they're taking them to bed, and parents need to watch more."