Cases of school workers going off the rails in virtual chats with students are on the rise in court, proving that social media is best avoided because it's too easy to tip over into intimate exchanges, say experts.
“It creates channels for discussion less delimited by a school framework. There is a certain blurring of the professional boundary. It's less embarrassing to write than to speak, so with chat, we quickly enter into intimacy, ”explains Stéphane Villeneuve, professor of digital integration in education at the University of Quebec in Montreal.
Why does a teacher need to communicate with his student on Messenger when there are official channels? asks Charles J. Russo, director of the Educational Leadership Program at the University of Dayton, Ohio.
“It opens the door to too much familiarity and the danger of abuse occurring. With young people, especially primary and secondary school students, you have to keep a distance, a clear line,” he says.
Mr. Russo distinguishes between a private conversation on social media and a teacher, for example, writing in a Facebook group to all his students that hockey practice is canceled because of the weather.
< strong>Real consequences
Among the fifty school employees who have marched in court for six years for sex crimes, almost a quarter of the cases concern an accused who has slipped on social networks. The consequences carry over to real life.
This is the case of 22-year-old teacher Arielle Leclerc-Fortin, who began talking to a high school student about the Snapchat app.
The Sherbrooke substitute and the teen ended up meeting and having sex.
She was sentenced to 15 months in prison last May.
Among the court cases, some involve teachers who were caught with child pornography in their possession. < /p>
Stéphane Villeneuve Expert
Expert Stéphane Villeneuve also warns against the great ease of becoming anonymous on social networks.
This is what Frédérik Bergeron, a professor from Charlesbourg, did by opening fake accounts on Instagram and Snapchat to extract racy photos from students (see other text below).
“We say a lot that we must educate our children in digital technology, but we should also look at teachers. From an ethical point of view, what is inappropriate? There might be some supervision work to be done on this side,” concludes Patrick Lussier, professor at the School of Criminology at the University of Montreal.
No embarrassment in luring their own students
A teacher who creates fake profiles to obtain racy images of his students and a substitute who sends photos of his sex to two teenagers: here are two cases where teachers committed the irreparable on social networks.
On the Instagram and Snapchat applications, physical education teacher Frédérik Bergeron posed as Jennifer Poulin, a 15-year-old teenager.
Frédérik Bergeron, a teacher in a specialized school, will soon receive his sentence for having lured students.
The teacher at the Joseph-Paquin school in Quebec, which gives specialized education to young people suffering from deafness and severe language impairment, has set up a rather elaborate scheme, among other things to get his hands on daring images.
The 29-year-old man also managed to obtain the sex photo of one of his students, and then threatened to publish it to all his contacts if he did not tell him. did not send others.
The accused approached with his false profile Jennifer another teenager who liked her teacher Bergeron, telling her that she too had a favorite teacher and that she let him touch her buttocks. He wanted his student to “let it go”.
Stuck by a relative
The decoys ceased when a relative of one of the two victims became aware of the discussions. The police investigation made it possible to trace this professor. Frédérik Bergeron pleaded guilty to four counts of extortion, luring and possession of child pornography. He is due to receive his sentence in the fall.
In the summer of 2017, Francis Faille went about it in a much less roundabout way to lure two of his former students. He had just finished the school year as a substitute in history and geography in a Montreal high school.
Substitute Francis Faille at the Montreal courthouse, in June 2021, before taking the path from jail.
The man who used cocaine every day at the time started online chats with a 16-year-old student, during which he talked about sex, alcohol and drugs. One evening, he tried to contact the teenager by webcam, but she refused, saying that she was not yet ready for anything sexual.
Despite this, he sent her a picture of his penis. The victim then filed a complaint with the police. He also showed his penis to another 15-year-old student on Skype. She ended the conversation in less than a minute.
In June 2021, the disgraced 48-year-old teacher was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Judge Sylvie Durand had also taken into account breach of trust as an aggravating factor.
– With Nicolas Saillant
Students are better protected in Ontario
The Ontario College of Teachers leads the pack with recommendations on good behavior to adopt on social networks and has not hesitated to revoke the license of more than 100 teachers in five years for sexual misconduct.
As early as 2011, the Ontario College of Teachers set up a guide with recommendations on how teachers should behave online in order to avoid slippages. The document is accessible in a few clicks on its website.
Gabrielle Barkany Ontario College of Teachers
“We encourage social media for educational purposes via a school platform. But, we discourage communicating late at night with students, exchanging personal text messages. Online, it’s risky to be too friendly, to get into inappropriate conversations,” explains Gabrielle Barkany, communications manager.
In Quebec, where there is no professional order for teachers, it is the school service centers that establish their rules. But they are very unequal from one establishment to another, recognizes Benoit Petit, educational adviser at the RÉCIT Service for school administrators. “Some centers updated their policy two years ago, others 10 years ago,” he says
Stéphane Villeneuve, professor of digital integration in education at UQAM, believes that Quebec also needs uniform guidelines for the entire profession.
“It lacks a bit of leadership. We have to put in rules that are clear, and above all known [by everyone],” says Patrick Lussier, professor of criminology at Laval University.
118 permits revoked
Furthermore, when an Ontario parent wants to file a complaint against a teacher, he knows that he can turn to the Order, which analyzes and imposes a sanction, if necessary. Between 2017 and 2021, the organization revoked the licenses of 118 teachers for sexual abuse, an average of more than 23 per year.
In Quebec, the Minister of Education, Jean -François Roberge, has revoked only five teaching certificates per year, based on an average of the last three years.
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Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my email@example.com 1-800-268-7128