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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f7707e000090.5 WESA's Life of Learning series focuses on learning and education activities, opportunities and challenges in the Greater Pittsburgh area.This multi-year commitment to providing learning-focused news coverage in southwestern Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Grable Foundation.

Examining The Issue Of Fraternization Between Teachers And Students

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Yoshimitsu Kurooka
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Inappropriate relationships between teachers and students have been an issue appearing in headlines throughout the year.

Ten percent of children in schools have reported being involved in student-teacher fraternization.  While these interactions have been around for decades, some recent high profile cases have turned a spotlight on the problem.

Charol Shakeshaft, a professor of education leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been studying the subject for more than twenty-five years.  She said through educating students, teachers, and parents, predators can be caught and brought to justice. 

“One in ten kids,” Shakeshaft remarks, “That’s a lot.  And it happens in all kinds of schools.  Don’t kid yourself that it wouldn’t happen in the school district in the town that you live in. It would.”

But how can school districts prevent teacher-student fraternization effectively?  Shakeshaft told Essential Pittsburgh that she sees two steps in prevention. The first is to make policies about the expectations of interactions between adults and students.  Although policies won’t necessarily stop these interactions from occurring, it will still stand as written documentation about what that school district expects of its employees.  The second step is to teach educators about the possible ramifications for inappropriate actions, and give other teachers the tools to spot signs that coworkers might be acting inappropriately. 

“It’s a matter of not just teaching people what’s expected and what’s not expected, but also letting people know that they are required by, law if they think something might be going on with an adult in a school with a student, that they are to report it.”

Shakeshaft said she believes that it is up to teachers to ensure that they are living up to expectations when it comes to meeting with students outside of the classroom.  Meetings with students should be done in public places, such as the library or hallway, to ensure safety while maintaining privacy in conversations.

According to Shakeshaft, what will ultimately put a halt to teacher-student fraternization is being vocal and raising awareness.

“If you see something that looks fishy, report it.  If you see something that concerns you, report it.”

As part of 90.5 WESA’sLife of Learning initiative Kevin Gavin hosts this special hour of Essential Pittsburgh addressing the issue.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.