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Are teachers failing to protect their students?
Misconduct in the classroom may be more prevalent than some think

First published October 12, 2012 | Click here for the original online article

Two Alberta teachers have been charged with sexual exploitation in 2012 alone. Former Edmonton teacher, Brad Ashley Glenn, 37, received a sentence of two years in prison. Redcliff teacher, Brad Mastel, 32, also faces charges of sexual assault, sexual interference, sexual touching and unlawful confinement. He goes on trial this November.

When parents send their students off to school, many assume their child will be safe. Although some parents may worry their child might have trouble making friends, or their child may be bullied, they believe their child's teacher will be able to take care of them.

Teachers provide not only knowledge, but also protection for children. They're supposed to prevent students from being bullied, and give them guidance if they have trouble making friends. Then again, perhaps parents should also worry about who exactly is guiding their children, and what their intentions are.

While some cases of teachers engaging in misconduct with their students make it to the courts and media, some students keep silent about the issues they face with their teachers.

Although Sam Leuck, a 20-year-old man living in Calgary, never engaged in a sexual relationship with any of his high school teachers, he found that one teacher often crossed the line into his personal life.

Leuck says he knew throughout high school he was one of his teacher's favourites,
but when he entered Grade 12, he found the dynamic in their relationship changed. "She found out that I started dating Claire, who I'm still with, and she called her ugly on a few occasions," Leuck recalls.

Leuck also remembers a night when he went out with his friends to party and his teacher became worried about him, "She texted me and called me all night. She ended up coming to my house at a really late hour to make sure I was home safe."

Kent Donlevy, faculty of education professor at the University of Calgary and co-author of A Guide to Alberta School Law says section four of the Alberta Teacher's Assocation Code of Conduct is critical.

"The teacher treats students with dignity and respect, and is considerate of their circumstances," he says. "A teacher who treats a student as a sexual object is not treating that pupil with dignity and respect."

Arguably, this sort of misconduct is also in strict violation of section 18 of the ATA's Code of Conduct, "The teacher acts in a manner which maintains the honour and dignity of the profession."

"I'm not (my students') friend," says Chelsey Lowe, 26, a teacher from Calgary. "I'm there to support and protect them." She says she was trained both in her post-secondary education and when she started her teaching job about boundaries with students.

Unfortunately not all teachers can keep themselves from crossing the line so easily.

Leuck never told anyone about his issues with his teacher except for friends, none of whom knew what to do in that situation.

"What they should do is go immediately to the counsellor and tell the counsellor, without a doubt," Donlevy recommends.

"If they're afraid to, they should tell one of their friends to tell the counsellor. The wrong approach is to put it on Facebook, the wrong approach is to put it on Twitter."

Although Leuck says his teacher crossed the line, at this point he has no interest in identifying her, or bringing the case to school authorities.

"It's hard to say which is more frightening," writes Samuel Spitalli, an adjunct professor at the Institute of Teacher Education at Palm Beach State College in Florida, in an article published in the American School Board Journal's August 2012 edition. "That we have yet to figure how to keep these teachers out of the classroom or that the occurrences are so frustratingly common."

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