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Crossing the line online: When teacher-student exchanges become improper

Technology, social media provide easy pathway for inappropriate teacher-student relationships — underscored by the cases of two Pierce County educators charged recently with sexual misconduct

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Originally posted by: BY DEBBIE CAFAZZO, Staff writer March 23, 2014

Texting takes just a few seconds. Maybe a tad longer if you’re tapping a tiny phone keyboard while drunk.

But writing an old-fashioned letter of apology about those texts takes considerably more time — and 10 pages of neatly lettered notebook paper.

Such a letter, from former Lincoln High School teacher Meredith Powell to the girlfriend of one of her students, is contained in documents released by Tacoma Public Schools as part of its investigation into the 24-year-old math teacher’s alleged misconduct.

In it, Powell wrote she was sorry for behaving badly: “Obviously nothing physical or emotional ever happened between (the boy) and I, nor would it ever, but the fact that we ever text at all about non-school related things, or that we ever sent inappropriate messages, under joking pretenses or not, was completely unprofessional, inappropriate & wrong.”

Pierce County prosecutors allege Powell was doing far more than drunk texting with some of her male students.

Hers was one of two back-to-back cases in February in which Pierce County teachers were charged with sexual misconduct.

In both cases, technology didn’t directly cause the alleged inappropriate behavior but may have abetted it.

Court documents accuse Powell of misconduct with three boys, ages 15 to 17. The allegations range from kissing, groping and oral sex in her Lincoln classroom to sending out pictures of herself in the bathtub and in bed through an application called Snapchat, designed to deliver images that disappear from a recipient’s electronic device in seconds.

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