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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The number of sexual relationships between teachers and students continues to rise in Texas and the Texas Education Agency is, in part, blaming social media.

The numbers are  skyrocketing in the Lone Star State. The description isn’t an exaggeration when you consider that last year there were about 150 cases of teachers and students involved in illicit student affairs. TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson says that isn’t the case now. “At the end of fiscal year 2016, last month, we had opened a total of 222 cases.”

Doug Phillips is the Director of Educator Investigations at the TEA and says the digital society we live in is having an impact on how both children and adults act. “I believe that with the technology that’s available now, as far as electronic communications, that it’s making it easier for these relationships to occur,” he said. “We believe that 99-percent of the cases involve some sort of electronic or social media, at the beginning, and that that fosters these relationships.”

Culbertson says the increase of accusations and investigations is pushing some workers at the TEA to the limit, so they’re asking the state legislature for two new investigators and will later press for more power to investigate the history of new hires.

Phillips says the increase in reporting actually reflects well on school districts and the system. “I’m hopeful that it’s also an indicator that we’re getting more reporting of these incidents when they do occur, which is a concern we’ve had and we have that they’re being underreported,” he explained. “I’m hopeful that this is also an indication that the districts are taking it more seriously and reporting them more often.”

The TEA is now working with Region 13 Education Service Center, an Austin-based non-regulatory agency that conducts training and consultation for federal and state programs, to develop training that hopefully will be available to school districts sometime next year.

“We’re really wanting the districts to establish and enforce social media polices, trying to limit the ability for one-on-one communication.” Phillips said. “[It will be] training not only in this realm of the inappropriate relationship but, just kind of educator ethics all around.”

Many districts in North Texas have already instituted policies on social media use between teachers and students.

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