After representing several teachers accused of having sexual relationships with their students, I have discovered some important similarities among my cases. These factors have all been involved, whether the teacher was innocent or actually did have a sexual relationship. The following advice is what I tell all of my friends who are teachers. They are lessons learned after representing several teachers accused of sex crimes.
1. Do not text your students. Texting is too informal, and many times, the nature and content of text messages is misconstrued. It is easy to reach wrong conclusions when you are reading through someone else’s conversation.
2. Do not give your students your home phone number or cell phone number. Even though times have changed dramatically, many people do not think it is normal for students to have their teacher’s personal phone number. Many jurors see it that way…and quite frankly, that is what matters when you are accused of a sex crime.
3. If you have children, do not have them attend the school district in which you teach. As a parent, your children will naturally have friends to the house. Seeing students outside of school is fine, but it should be minimal. There are bad boundaries crossed when students find themselves sleeping over at your house, seeing your personal things and knowing your personal business.
4. Teachers should not be friends with their students on Facebook. Facebook friendships cause boundaries to once again overlap and can lead to the appearance of an inappropriate relationship. In order to maintain a professional relationship with your students, it is critical that they are not able to peruse through your family vacation pictures, information about your friends and family and be privy to matters going on in your personal life. Facebook profiles are probably not a good idea in general for teachers, however, I have found that advice to be unrealistic.
5. Always make sure to leave the door open, have another student or teacher to witness to any conversation or dealing you have with a student. Putting yourself in a position where you are alone with students is dangerous. Many times, teachers do not realize that these situations can come back to haunt them…even when nothing has happened.