SPECIAL REPORT: Teacher trysts

The Texas Education Agency opened almost 160 investigations into inappropriate teacher- student relationships last school year. That's almost double the number opened only four years ago.

Some parents are terrified of the trysts with students and in Texas, it's becoming a terrible truth.

In schools, the teachers are supposed to be the adults but too often they're becoming more like peers. Such as in the recent high profile case out of Port Arthur Memorial High School.  Port Arthur Police say a former coach and teacher Kip McFarlin had a sexual relationship with a student. 
A criminal trial is pending. But the former student has filed suit against McFarlin, the Port Arthur Independent School District and another school district. 

The lawsuit contains intimate details.  In the suit Jenny Doe says she transferred to Memorial in 2011. On October 3 the suit says McFarlin took Jenny to a parking lot at Pleasure Island and had sex with her.  He gave her a teddy bear and told her to think of it as their first date. 

The sexual abuse is said to have continued, but McFarlin is not the only Southeast Texan facing such accusations. A number of former educators have been blamed of doing the same or similar deeds. 

The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office says five cases of an improper relationship have been indicted since 2004. Orange County reports it has prosecuted the same number of improper relationship cases in that time frame.

Why is it becoming more prevalent now than it was four or five years ago? The answer might be in the palm of your hand or sitting at your desk at home. Social media and texting has created the opportunity for more personal communication between teachers and students. 

"The trend I'm seeing is developing through social network and the increase we're seeing in these kinds of relationships in our schools across the country," said Licensed Professional Counselor Reagan Hollier.

Some students like Jenny end up in Hollier's office.  According to the lawsuit, Jenny's story started with a message on facebook. 

"That's what starts to blur the line between the teacher and the child. For a lot of them, they're getting attention feeling special that this adult figure in their life is paying them so much attention," Hollier said. 

Hollier also consuls adults who have been the teacher in such a relationship. 
"They kind of view these children as their peers and that's what they do to reconcile in their mind why the relationship is ok. Some know it's inappropriate but have issues in their own lives they use to justify it," she said.

Hollier said the relationship can cause students who haven't matured to suffer from mood disorders leading to bigger problems like substance abuse. 

Jenny's suit says a third party discovered what was going and her parents stopped the relationship. She and her family has since moved away from Port Arthur.

Jenny is suing McFarlin for mental anguish among other things. She is also suing PAISD for neglecting to notice McFarlin had a past history of sexually harassing students. 

The school district says McFarlin passed a background check and the relationship was reported to the TEA the moment it came to light and McFarlin was terminated. 

How can you make sure your child is safe? Hollier says it comes back to monitoring your child. She advises checking their social media pages and keeping up with who they talk to. If your child becomes distant, more rebellious or has a change in friends it could be a red flag something is going on.


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