File: “Just When You Thought You had Heard Everything.”

Print URL: http://tbo.com/news/crime/too-social-texting-aiding-teacher-student-sex-20150308/

Too social: Texting aiding teacher-student sex

Ethel Anderson, a 30-year-old teacher at Mango Elementary School in Seffner, and a 12-year-old student traded hundreds of text messages. She was later convicted of molesting the child. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

The text messages were intimate and flirty.

“why u like me”

“Cuz ur quietly generous with others humble at times aware of other ppl and their feelings and u love God. U also have super sexy hands a cute sly smile”

“Im sooo smiling right now howed u now that i dop that stuff quietly”

“i pay attention to u”

These were among hundreds of texts exchanged between Ethel Anderson, a 30-year-old teacher at Mango Elementary School in Seffner, and a 12-year-old student.

Anderson was ultimately sentenced to 38 years in prison for molesting the boy she had been tutoring in math.

She was one of dozens of teachers in the Tampa Bay area to be prosecuted for having sex with students, many of whom authorities say communicated with their victims via text messages or on social media.

Among them was Jeffrey Bohlander, a teacher at Lealman Intermediate School in St. Petersburg, who was charged in January with lewd and lascivious battery on a 14-year-old girl who attends the school. Police said they obtained inappropriate text messages between Bohlander, 54, and the girl.

And in September, Polk County authorities arrested teacher Michael Emmanuel Taveras, 28, accused of having sex with a 14-year-old middle school girl. Police said Taveras and the girl communicated via a social network site.

A former U.S. education official believes it’s no coincidence that social media and texting seem to be present in a large number of teacher sex cases.

Terry Abbott, who was chief of staff at the Department of Education under President George W. Bush, says predator teachers now have easy access to victims through private channels of communication that didn’t exist long ago.

“I believe social media/text messaging is the game changer in this type of situation,’’ said Abbott, whose public relations company, Drive West Communications, did an informal study tracking a year’s worth of media reports about these cases.

Last year, Abbott said, the media reported on 781 ­teacher sex cases across the country, with reports mentioning text­ing or social media being involved in 38 percent of them. “We believe that number is well on the low side,” said Abbott, who noted stories don’t include all the evidence involved in each case. “We’re seeing it very often on a scary level.”

Hillsborough Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters said social media and text­ing are features in teacher/student sex cases as they are in virtually every other type of crime.

“We see the impact in all sorts of areas,” said Peters, who is in charge of sex crimes prosecutions. “I think it makes it easier to communicate with the victim, so that might contribute to an increase. But that’s a factor with every crime.”

Peters said cellphones and the Internet have lowered traditional boundaries between students and teachers and contributed to a general dynamic where teachers and students are more friendly than they used to be. “The relationship extends past the dismissal bell,” she said.

Abbott said the intimacy facilitated by social media and texting enables predator teachers to cross lines that would be otherwise impenetrable.

“I cannot imagine a teacher walking up to a student in the hallway and leaning over and saying, ‘Would you like to see a nude picture of me?’ But they will do it online.”

Sexual predators in schools are not a new phenomenon, Abbott said. But he suggested the ubiquity of cellphones among students and the use of social media might be driving the prevalence of teacher sex cases, which used to be rare.

“It gives classroom sexual predators, it gives them instant, immediate, private access to children, many of whom are the most vulnerable children in their classrooms,” Abbott said.

If teachers can text students in the middle of the night, “that is a recipe for disaster, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

Abbott thinks school districts should not allow private, electronic communications between students and teachers.

“There are many programs that allow teachers and schools to send out blanket messages to big groups and include parents and other teachers,” Abbott said. That should be sufficient, he said.

The Florida Department of Education doesn’t offer advice or guidance to school districts regarding policies or practices governing social media and texting between teachers and students, said spokeswoman Claudia Claussen.

The Hillsborough County school district doesn’t ban private student-teacher electronic communications, said spokesman Steve Hegarty, who said teachers are encouraged to use officially sanctioned forms of communication such as district email and Edsby, the district’s online gradebook and communication site.

Hegarty said the district is working on developing a policy governing electronic communications between teachers and students, but he couldn’t say when it might be ready. Developing policies is a long process, he said.

With social media and texting, there is a record that can show when staff members are acting inappropriately, said Hegarty, who recalled that a teacher was fired several years ago for sending a student numerous text messages at all hours of the day and night. Administrators didn’t need to know the content of the messages to conclude the teacher’s actions were unprofessional, Hegarty said.

With all the extracurricular activities happening in the schools, there frequently is a legitimate need for electronic communications. A teacher might use Twitter to notify everyone that band practice has been rescheduled, he said.

But he added, “Teachers have to be very, very careful if they use something that’s not sanctioned.” The “safest thing” for teachers is to use the officially established channels of communication, he said.

Text messaging and social media are so prevalent, Hegarty said, “I think our employees want some guidance. … I get questions here in this office where somebody will say, ‘I can open a Twitter account, right?’ ”

Hegarty said he advises staff members to keep their personal and professional accounts separate and to consult their supervisors about the professional accounts. So, for example, if a team has an official Twitter account, the coach shouldn’t be posting information on it about his or her vacations.

Abbott said school districts need to draw clear lines.

“A policy that says a communication between a teacher and student needs to be on a professional level is like not having a policy at all,” he said. “The consequences to children obviously are horrendous, but so are the consequences to teachers.”

The potential consequences go beyond ruin­ing careers and time in prison. In the past year, Abbott said, eight teachers accused in these cases committed suicide.

“That’s a very, very sad part of the problem,” he said.

The bottom line is allowing easy, private communications between students and teachers, Abbott said, is “the highway to hell.”

 

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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Valerie Spruill, Ohio Woman, Finds Out Husband Was Her Father

Posted: 09/19/2012 3:18 pm Updated: 09/20/2012 12:30 pm

Valerie Spruill from Doylestown, Ohio, discovered that her husband, Percy, was also her father, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. The 60-year-old woman learned the truth six years after Percy’s death.

Here is what happened, according to Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer:

Spruill was sent to live with her grandparents when she was just 3 months old. She was told that her grandfather was her father and that her mother was a “family friend.” Her biological mother was a “night lady” who was jailed on sex charges in 1980. Her biological father was Percy Spruill, who was 15 when he met Valerie’s mother.

Valerie and Percy later married. Throughout their marriage, Valerie said she heard rumors that Percy was her father, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. In April 1998, Percy died at the age of 60. In 2004, an uncle told Valerie the rumors were true, and a DNA test confirmed it.

Did Percy know Valerie was his daughter? Visit the Akron Beacon Journal for the full story.

Valerie certainly isn’t the first person to make a shocking discovery about a partner.

James and Maura, whose real names have been concealed, grew up 100 miles apart and met during a night out in Ireland in a town neither was from, the BBC reported in 2010. They began dating; she got pregnant, and they moved in together.

After some time, Maura convinced James to contact his estranged mother, according to the BBC. When James visited his mother, and told her about Maura, pieces of the story led his mom to discovering Maura is actually his half sister. A DNA test confirmed the truth.

In another case, it took Indian bride Minati Khatua of Rourkela six months to discover that she had married a woman and not a manTelegraph Indiareported in 2010.

After suspicions arose, Khatua forced open the door as her “husband” took a bath only to discover he was a woman. She eventually called the police. NDTV reported that the fraudulent woman fled with a car and a jeep purchased with money from Khatua’s bank account.

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Man dies after live roach-eating contest in Fla.
By SUZETTE LABOY | Associated Press – 58 mins ago
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Associated Press/Courtesy John-Patrick McNown – In this frame grab made from video on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, and provided by John-Patrick McNown, Edward Archbold celebrates winning a roach-eating contest at …more
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MIAMI (AP) — The winner of a roach-eating contest in South Florida died shortly after downing dozens of the live bugs as well as worms, authorities said Monday.
About 30 contestants ate the insects during Friday night’s contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach about 40 miles north of Miami. The grand prize was a python.
Edward Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach became ill shortly after the contest ended and collapsed in front of the store, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office statement released Monday. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Authorities were waiting for results of an autopsy to determine a cause of death.
“Unless the roaches were contaminated with some bacteria or other pathogens, I don’t think that cockroaches would be unsafe to eat,” said Michael Adams, professor of entomology at the University of California at Riverside, who added that he has never heard of someone dying after consuming roaches. “Some people do have allergies to roaches,” he said, “but there are no toxins in roaches or related insects.”
None of the other contestants became ill, the sheriff’s office said.
There was no updated phone number listed for Archbold in West Palm Beach.
“We feel terribly awful,” said store owner Ben Siegel, who added that Archbold did not appear to be sick before the contest. “He looked like he just wanted to show off and was very nice,” Siegel said, adding that Archbold was “the life of the party.”
Siegel said Archbold was selling the exotic prize to a friend who took him to the contest.
The Miami Herald reported the grand prize has been put aside in Archbold’s name and will be given to his estate.
A statement from Siegel’s attorney said all the participants signed waivers “accepting responsibility for their participation in this unique and unorthodox contest.”
The bugs consumed were from an inventory of insects “that are safely and domestically raised in a controlled environment as food for reptiles.”
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