WILLIAMSPORT — With Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, there are now many ways for teachers to interact with their students. For some that can be helpful.
But recently, several teachers in our area have been accused of going further–having inappropriate contact with students.
The assistant superintendent at the Williamsport Area School District said his district strongly discourages its teachers from communicating with students through text messages or Facebook. On Thursday, charges were filed against a teacher at Pine Grove Area School District in Schuylkill County, for sending inappropriate messages to a student…and a former substitute teacher from Shamokin was in court Friday on similar charges.
Michael Zack walked into the Northumberland County Courthouse in Sunbury prepared to plead guilty to a corruption charge. Zack is accused of sending thousands of sexual text messages to students at Shamokin Area High School, where he was a substitute teacher. Zack did not plead guilty because of an error in paperwork, but a teacher in Schuylkill County, Matthew Pfautz, faces similar charges.
The Pine Grove Area School District put out this statement: “The district is taking all necessary steps to ensure the continued integrity of its professional staff and the well-being of its students and to take all necessary steps to deter the likelihood of any such future conduct.”
“To get into very personal communications with students where you’re sharing information about your own person life or you’re digging into their personal lives, you can cross a line very quickly,” Don Adams said.
Don Adams is the assistant superintendent at the Williamsport Area School District. He is aware of situations like Zack’s, and said his school district takes precautions so a similar situation does not happen in Williamsport. He says new teachers must have at least three hours of ethics training before they start.
When it comes to communication with students and parents, the Williamsport Area School District said that should only be done through the teacher’s school email address.
“We have those email accounts out there. All of our teachers and administrators are out there publicly on our websites,” Adams said.
Adams said texting between teachers and students is strongly discouraged in the Williamsport Area School District. When it comes to social media sites like Facebook, the same rules apply.
“We strongly suggest that you do not friend students on the Facebook site. We believe that the best form of communication with a student is face to face in the classroom,” Adams said.
The assistant district attorney in Northumberland County said Michael Zack will be in court at a later date. As for Matthew Pfautz in Schuylkill County, he’s been suspended from Pine Grove Area School District without pay while the investigation continues.