AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - A significant rise in cases of sexual relationships between Texas teachers and students, has many concerned.
As 2016 comes to a close, cases of sexual relationships between students and teachers have risen 57 percent since the 2009-2010 school year. And local officials say they have a feeling they know what's contributing to the rise.
Seeing a child with a cell phone nowadays is perfectly normal.
But the accessibility is worrisome for many parents, considering how easy it is to communicate with almost anyone. Between September first and November 30th of this year, the Texas Education Agency has opened 56 investigations of inappropriate relationships between teachers and students, some here in the Panhandle.
And officials believe cell phones and social media becoming the norm, may be why.
"They exchange numbers to share homework assignments or to let them know if they're in athletics, when practices change or different things like that," says Executive Director of The Bridge April Lemming. "So there's access with a child. Before, when you had to call them on the phone, people were more aware. It was much more public instead of just pulling it out of your pocket and going okay this is what it is and then those lines can cross."
"We're seeing a lot more crime that starts with social media. It's easy access, it's easy to talk to people, it's easy to see friends that you would only see at school," says APD Officer Jeb Hilton. "You see them all the time because you can get on Facebook or twitter or whatever it is and you can talk back and forth."
But Hilton says APD is seeing a rise in a lot of crimes for this same reason, as it is also making it easier for them to catch people. And though it may not be the only answer, both Lemming and Hilton say parents monitoring what their children are doing online and on their phones can prevent a lot.
"It's important for parents to also really monitor their children's social media, their phone, to make sure whether it's teacher's whether it's other adults, whether it's any type of dating violence or bullying," says Lemming. "You need to be monitoring your child's cell phone to make sure that those things aren't happening."
"I think the further we get into it, the more parents are starting to understand that they need to know their kids passwords and maybe even sit there with their kids while they're on this stuff," says Hilton. "There are a lot of people out there that prey on children and this is an easy way to do it."