Sunday, March 30, 2008

When is reaching out to a student getting too close?

By Letitia Stein, Times Staff Writer

TAMPA — The male student checked out the long auburn hair and light eyes. Who are you?

"Ms. Buchanan," the 25-year-old Hillsborough teacher replied.

I just want to let you know that I'm 18.

"Well, I just want to let you know that you're still 10 years too young for me," said Ashley Buchanan, a first-year teacher.

For the Brandon High School teacher, the lines are clear: Sex with students — or any inappropriate relationship — is an obvious no-no.

But what about text-messaging? Hugs? Handing out a personal cell number?

Teachers can fall into gray areas trying to walk the line between saint and sinner. When is reaching out to a child getting too close? When is it making a difference?

As a young teacher, Buchanan says, she has to be especially careful. Students tell her all the time that she looks like one of them. They jokingly invite her on dates and to the movies.

"I say in the current climate, you can't say things like that. You think it's funny, but you're crossing the line," she said. "They don't understand the consequences of what they say."

The issues aren't always as black and white as the recent spate of teacher sex scandals placing Tampa Bay area schools in the national limelight. Electronic communication, for instance, can be a slippery slope.

The conclusion of this thought provoking article is here.

Note from Gag:

No pic of Ashley Buchanan?! What the hell, St. Pete Times! Quit teasing me!!!