Ore. abuse case questions teacher texting

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by Bend Bulletin

kgw.com

Posted on March 20, 2012 at 6:50 AM

BEND, Ore. (AP) -- The text messages, some flirty, from the leader of a Central Oregon charter school who is accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl, have raised a question about teacher-student boundaries and new technology: Should teachers send individual texts to students?

A state schools group says texts from teachers should be limited to groups, such as sports teams or a class.

But the Redmond Proficiency Academy has expected teachers to be available for students after class, making teacher cell numbers available, and encouraging students to call, text or email with questions about assignments, even on weekends, The Bulletin of Bend reported Monday.

Court records show a relationship began in 2009 between the academy's director, Michael Bremont, and a female student that included text messages.

"... The text messages started and this allowed Michael to say things to her, flirt with her and write things he may not otherwise say," says a warrant for Redmond police to search for cellphones in his vehicle.

Bremont, 39, was charged in February and has been released to live with relatives in West Linn. He is charged with sodomy, attempted rape and sexual abuse, and is scheduled to enter a plea April 9. The school has also filed a complaint with the state teacher licensing agency.

The Oregon School Boards Association recommends against allowing teachers to send individual text messages to students, said spokesman Lonn Hoklin, stressing that the group's recommendations are advisory.

"It's all about preventing any appearance or reality of unfairness or inappropriate communications," he said. "The goal is to maintain a purely professional relationship with students."

The charter school plans to work with the Redmond School District and to see what other districts do with texting policies, said Jon Bullock, the interim director. The Redmond board doesn't have a specific texting policy but plans to start considering one Friday.

"In the end, the expectation is that staff effectively communicate with students and parents and do so in a manner that meets their professional and ethical standards," said Bullock. The Bulletin said other Central Oregon districts have varying policies.

Bend-La Pine, for example, covers technology use during school hours, but not cellphone texting between teachers and students after school is out. Jefferson County discourages teachers texting students, while other districts say they don't yet have specific policies about texting.

It's best for students to ask questions when they're in school so teachers can directly communicate with them, school safety consultant Kenneth Trump told The Bulletin.

"It would be or should be a red flag to most parents if educators are communicating with their children by text messaging," he said. "What is so urgent and so private that it needs to be communicated that way versus one-on-one in the school setting?"

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