One teacher is accused of having a sexual relationship with a student for a year and a half. Another is accused of groping a student and asking for nudes. Yet another is accused of raping and molesting a child.
In just the past 30 days alone, more than five teachers have been accused of having inappropriate relationships or sexually assaulting students. Most of them have come from Gwinnett County, Georgia's largest school district.
- April 27: DeKalb County School District sent out a statement to parents of Columbia Middle School because a teacher was in an alleged relationship with one of the students.
- May 17: A Gwinnett County teacher is arrested and accused of groping a student and asking for nude pictures over social media
- May 17: Another Gwinnett County teacher, a track coach at Meadowcreek High School, is arrested and accused of inappropriately touching a student
- May 19: A former UGA football player turned math teacher and assistant football coach at Parkview High School is arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a student for more than 18-months
- May 19: A ninth grade teacher at Griffin High School, in the Griffin-Spalding County School System, is arrested and charged with allegedly raping a student
Last year, 11Alive reported on an "epidemic" of teachers accused of having sex with students. Back then, one retired educator blamed many of the cases on the illegal use of smartphones and social media.
"Access is a key factor," John Seryak told 11Alive's Jon Shirek last May. "With students with cell phones all the time, and teachers with cell phones, there's that ability to communicate...[some teachers] will actually target students they know are vulnerable."
Seryak is with the organization SESAMEnet.org -- Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation. The group claims to be the "leading national voice for the prevention of sexual exploitation." He pointed out that the "secret" communications are also the reason many cases get exposed: parents discover the teachers' inappropriate messages on their kids' smartphones and laptops.
“A parent's role is absolutely key. And for those parents who discovered that and took action, kudos to them,” he said. “We need more parents like that to be on top of what their children are doing. Teachers shouldn't be communicating with their students other than on the school district's website. Public schools, private schools, charter schools should be safe havens and places of learning for children."
According to reports by USA TODAY, the federal government does not maintain a database of teachers who have sexually abused children. Further, the investigation found that education officials regularly cover up evidence of abuse by keeping the allegations secret and making it easy for abusive teachers to find jobs elsewhere.
Seryak said his group is advocating for the end of part of that trend, which they call "passing the trash."
"There should be absolutely zero numbers of cases of teacher sexual misconduct," he argued. "Well, this is not the case. We have hundreds across the nation. That's an epidemic. Especially since our expectation is that this would never, never happen. Well, it's happening and it's happening in every state, it's happening in multiple school districts."
Seryak said it all comes down to training in how to avoid situations that could lead to improper relationship.
"The education 'system' itself can be doing more with a call to action for teachers and teacher union leaders to come forward and demand training, legislative change, transparency, and accountability," he said. "Each of us should be speaking out against educator sexual misconduct, district policies and behaviors that put students at risk, and calling for more training. The nation's teachers could be a literal 'army' of advocates for change."
11Alive reached out to the Gwinnett County school system to get their policy for running background checks on teachers, since they are the largest district. As of the writing of this report, they have not responded back.