What can parents do to make sure their high-school students don’t wind up in an “improper relationship” with a Comal ISD teacher?
Two local educators made headlines this year, one of them, 38-year-old Canyon Lake High School teacher Devon Hooper, for allegedly seconding explicit photos and messages to a 15-year-old student.
Hooper was arrested on Aug. 21 and although no official charges are posted to the criminal-court docket her no-fault divorce from husband Brian Hooper will be finalized on Jan. 1, 2023.
In another highly publicized case, a pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 19 for educator Emily Marie Anderson, 34, a Canyon High School Special Ed inclusion support teacher and assistant cheer sponsor arrested on Aug. 16, 2021.
She faces second-degree felony charges for sexual assault and improper relationship between an educator/student.
Trendy Sharp. executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Comal County (CACCC), says there are several easy tips parents can follow to make sure their children don’t wind in unhealthy relationships with educators.
She conducts forensic interviews for law enforcement investigating charges of sexual and physical abuse of children.
First pointer: Abuse thrives in secrecy. Tell kids to make sure doors are open at all times.
“Over 85% of all abuse happens in one child/one adult closed-door situations,” Sharp said.
Parents also should advise students to steer clear of suspicious cellphone and internet communications with educators.
“Cell phones and internet communications should be monitored by parents all of the time, and very seldom do adults need to be communicating with children without parents also included in the communication,” she said.
Comal ISD spokesperson Steve Stanford offers these policy guidelines for electronic communications between employees, students and parents:
- A certified or licensed employee or any other employee designated in writing by the superintendent or a campus principal may use electronic communications with students currently enrolled with these provisions: Electronic communications between all other employees and students who are enrolled in the district are prohibited; employees are not required to provide students with their personal phone number or email address; An employee is not subject to the provisions regarding electronic communications with a student to the extent the employee has a social or family relationship with a student (for example, an employee may have a relationship with a niece or nephew, a student who is the child of an adult friend, a student who is a friend of the employee’s child, or a member of the same civic, social, recreational or religious organization.)
- Electronic communications are defined as any communication facilitated by any electronic device including a telephone, cellular telephone, computer, computer network, personal-data assistant, or pager.
- To communicate means to convey information and includes one-way communication as well as a dialog between two or more people. Public communication by an employee that is not targeted at students (e.g. posting on the employee’s personal social network page) is not communication. However, the employee may be subject to district regulations on personal electronic communications.
- Unsolicited contact from a student through electronic means is not communication.
- Certified or licensed employees whose job duties may require the employee to communicate electronically with students include classroom teachers, counselors, principals, librarians, paraprofessionals, nurses, educational diagnosticians, licensed therapists and athletic trainers.
- Employees who communicate electronically with students are prohibited from knowingly communicating with students using any form of electronic communications including mobile and web applications, that are not provided or accessible by the district except for specific exemptions (employees with extracurricular duties may use text messaging to communicate with students participating in extracurricular activities; communication must be limited to matters within the scope of the employee’s professional responsibilities; employees are prohibited from knowingly communicating with students through a personal social network page). However, an employee may make public posts to a social network site, blog or similar application.
- The employee does not have a right to privacy with respect to communications with students and parents and is subject to applicable state and federal laws.
- If a parent or student asks, a district employee can be barred from communicating with the student through email, text messaging, instant messaging, or any other form of one-on-one communication.
- An employee may request an exception to this.
- All staff are required to use school email accounts for all electronic communications with parents.
CACCC offers Darkness to Light training for parents who would like to learn more about child sexual abuse. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about child sexual abuse visit d2l.org.