Local News

Parents need to track teens', teachers' interactions

Posted May 10, 2011 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2011 6:49 p.m. EDT

— A local family psychologist says communication between parents and their children is important to help prevent inappropriate behavior between students and teachers.

Since the early 1980s, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 127 teachers in North Carolina have either surrendered or lost their teaching licenses because of sexual misconduct or romantic relationships involving students.

Psychologist Kristen Wynns warns that as parents allow their teenagers additional freedoms, they risk missing some of the warning signs of inappropriate teacher behavior.

Three cases in the past month involved teen victims and school employees.

Former Garner High School drama teacher Joshua Andrew White, 35, of 411 Deering Drive in Raleigh, was arrested April 27 on accusations that he had sex twice with a student.

Craig Steven Wheeler, 49, of 333 Baylor Drive in Fayetteville, an administrator at Eastover Christian Academy, faces 120 charges stemming from what police say was long-running sexual abuse of a 14-year-old student on campus.

Terry Lamar Jones Jr., 28, of 5011 S. Alston Ave. in Durham, was the band teacher at Shephard Middle School before an alleged relationship he had with a student while teaching in Winston-Salem came to light. He surrendered April 25 to Forsyth County authorities on 64 counts of sex with a student.

Wynns says technology, such as cellphones and social networking sites, make it easier for inappropriate relationships to happen.

"Those kinds of things are doors, where teachers can start off having innocent communications, or not so innocent, but it's blurry, because it's not so obvious to a kid," she said.

She says parents need to know what their children are texting and posting on the Web.

"You shouldn't feel guilty about requiring that your kids hand over their cellphones every day to let you scroll through the text messages," Wynns said.

She adds that parents should also know their children's passwords to online accounts and regularly check them.

Early intervention, Wynns says, is important, because a relationship with a teacher can greatly harm a student in the long term and can distort the student's perception of a healthy relationship.