MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama education officials are trying to combat what they say is a growing problem of sexual relationships between teachers and students.
The state Department of Education has released a training program that officials in Montgomery are urging local school systems to use in teaching educators about avoiding inappropriate encounters.
The program also encourages teachers to report colleagues they suspect of having inappropriate relations with students.
The training material quotes reports that say Alabama is among the worst states in the nation for sexual relationships between school workers and students, and it depicts the problem as getting worse.
"There are just more educators doing bad things with students and I think a big part of that, to me at least, is the advent of social media," said Barry Matson, executive director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, in a video included with the program.
After Alabama criminalized teacher-student sex, 45 such cases were reported in 2017, the curriculum states, and Alabama leads the nation in inappropriate student-teacher relationships on a per capita basis. More than 200 educators have been arrested on sex charges involving students since 2010, and social media and texting are fueling the problem, it says.
"This is a topic people don't want to talk about, but there is no choice," Alabama School Superintendent Eric Mackey said in a program video.
The curriculum was developed with the state prosecutors' association, colleges and universities. It's not mandatory, but Mackey is asking city and county systems to use the material.
The Alabama Education Association has agreed to help with the training, Mackey told local officials in a letter last month after the training curriculum was posted online. It includes videos depicting the problem of inappropriate relationships.
The executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, Sally Smith, told al.com the organization will encourage board members across the state to offer the training to school employees.
"The videos provide a great vehicle to have conversations about these very difficult issues," she said.
Alabama used material from a similar program in Texas in developing the training.