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Clearer policies needed for student-teacher interaction, therapist says

By Devon Dolan | Posted - Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A call for change is surfacing in how Utah teachers and students are allowed to interact.

An increasing number of sexual abuse cases involving teens are now started by text message or on social media, some therapists say.

"It becomes the first step to breaking boundaries between a teacher and a student, and things perpetrate from there," said therapist Brad Kelstorm.

Kelstorm works with boys who are victims of sexual abuse. He said most cases he sees begin by a simple text message or through social media. Kelstrom contacted KSL after seeing reports of five former Utah teachers who are currently facing allegations of child sexual abuse.

Most Utah school districts have general policies prohibiting inappropriate verbal, written or electronic communication between teachers and students. Other districts have somewhat more specific policies in place.

Canyons School District doesn't allow any "personal communication with a student for reasons unrelated to instruction or official school business."

The Granite School District takes it a step further. "'Friending' or 'following' on teachers' personal social media sites is expressly prohibited. Inappropriate student/teacher interaction, whether in person, via text, phone, email or any other form of communication is prohibited.'"

Kelstorm said it may be common sense for teachers to not have sexual relationships with their student. But he said these days, schools need to have clearer communication policies in place.

"As social media becomes more accessible and used in classrooms we'll see this a lot more," he predicted.

Kelstorm recommended a strict policy like the one the Granite School District has in place - no texting or social media between teachers and students.


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