LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Kids, parents and society look up to teachers. But time and time again, you hear of teachers who violate that trust with inappropriate relationships with their students. These relationships often began when someone crosses the line online.
We've seen teachers who've been fired for having sexual relationships with students. It's not only against the law when students are underage, it also violates the Arkansas Code of Ethics for teachers.
The code is a guideline and it's left up to individual school districts to create specific E-stem charter school doesn't have a formal policy when it comes to Facebook or social networking sites. But executive director John Bacon discourages teachers from friending students online.
"There are probably more negative than positive consequences," says Bacon. "If you're going to draw a line with Facebook, are you going to draw a line with cell phones? And draw a line with texting?"
Yet, misuse of technology has put some Arkansas teachers in jail.
In December, police arrested former Highland High School teacher Nathan Miller for allegedly exchanging sexual texts with a student. In January, Garland County deputies arrested Fountain Lake teacher, Timothy Oshields on allegations he had sex with a student. Deputies say the two exchanged Facebook and cell phone messages. In February, police arrested Cabot High School teacher Stacy Stracener, accused of sexually assaulting a student.
Cabot District officials declined an interview, but gave THV their Social Networking and Ethics policy. Teachers are forbidden from sharing their cell phone numbers, texting students, emailing students from an outside school account, and interacting with students on social networking sites.
"My personal viewpoint is texting your students gets too personal and too close to home especially if it's your own personal phone," says UALR Associate professor of Reading Kent Layton.
Layton says the state's code of ethics and school district's policies are issues of risk management.
"Risk management is anything that can hurt the child and could cost the district money," says Layton.
Arkansas Education Association President Donna Morey says text messages aren't all bad.
"There's a real benefit for a coach to send a message to a team that practice is cancelled, but it's also important it's at an appropriate time," says Morey.
She suggests if teachers are allowed to hand out their cell phone numbers parents should first be notified. John Bacon says teachers just need to remember, it's more about the content of their interactions with students outside of class than it is about the technology.
"I think the most important thing is to remember this is a professional relationship," says Bacon.
Missouri passed a law last year that mandated every school district in that state develop a policy on teacher-student communications. If they're allowed to be on social networking sites, the conversations must be public, for example, interacting on Facebook email would be illegal.
The Arkansas Supreme Court recently sided with a high school teacher who had sex with an 18-year-old student because the student was not underage. That decision contradicts the Arkansas Teacher Code of Ethics.