Online Education

Predators in Our Faculties: The Hazard of Social Media

There are a growing number of cases of school workers running amok in virtual chats with students in court, proving that social media should be avoided because it’s too easy to get into. deals intimate, experts say.

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“It creates channels for discussion that are less restricted to the school. There is some blurring of professional boundaries. Writing is less embarrassing than talking, so we quickly get into intimacy in a chat,” explains Stéphane Villeneuve, professor of digital integration in education at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

Why should a teacher communicate with his student in instant messengers when there are official channels? asks Charles J. Russo, director of the Leadership Education Program at the University of Dayton, Ohio.

“It opens the door to too much familiarity and the danger of abuse. With young people, especially primary and secondary school students, we must keep a distance, a clear line,” he said.

Mr. Rousseau distinguishes between a private conversation on social media and, for example, a professor who writes in a Facebook group to all his students that hockey practice is canceled due to the weather.

Real Consequences

Among the school’s 50 employees who have been marching through sex crime courts for six years, almost a quarter of the cases involve a defendant who blabbed on social media. The consequences carry over to real life.

This is the case of 22-year-old teacher Ariel Leclerc-Fortin, who started chatting with a high school student on the Snapchat app.

The Sherbrooke substitute and the teenager met and had sex.

Thus, last May she was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Among the court cases, some involve teachers who have been caught with child pornography.

fake accounts

Expert Stéphane Villeneuve also warns against how easy it is to become anonymous on social media.

This is exactly what Frédéric Bergeron, a Charlesbourg teacher, did by opening up fake Instagram and Snapchat accounts to pull daring photos from students (see other text below).

“We talk a lot about how we should educate our children about digital technologies, but we also need to look at teachers. What is ethically unacceptable? Some oversight work may be required on this side,” concludes Patrick Lussier, professor at the School of Criminology at the University of Montreal.

Feel free to lure your students

A teacher who creates false profiles to get bold images of his students and a substitute who sends photos of his gender to two teenagers: here are two cases where teachers have done irreparable damage on social media.

On the Instagram and Snapchat apps, gym teacher Frédéric Bergeron posed as Jennifer Poulain, a 15-year-old girl.

Frédéric Bergeron, a teacher at a specialized school, will soon get his term for luring students.

File photo, courtesy

Frédéric Bergeron, a teacher at a specialized school, will soon get his term for luring students.

A teacher at the Joseph-Paquin School in Quebec, which provides specialized education to young people with deafness and severe language impairments, has devised a rather complex scheme, among other things, to get his hands on bold images.

The 29-year-old also managed to get a sex photo of one of his students, after which he threatened to publish it in all his contacts if he did not send him others.

The accused approached with his fake profile of Jennifer to another teenager who liked her teacher Bergeron, telling her that she also had a favorite teacher and that she allowed him to touch her buttocks. He wanted his student to “let go”.

Stuck at parents

The bait ended when a relative of one of the two victims became aware of the discussions. The police investigation made it possible to return to this professor. Frederic Bergeron pleaded guilty to four counts of extortion, seduction and possession of child pornography. He is due to receive his sentence in the fall.

In the summer of 2017, Francis Filet took this path in a much less roundabout way to poach two of his former students. He had just completed a year as an assistant in history and geography at a Montreal high school.

MP Francis Fayet at the Montreal Courthouse in June 2021 before going to prison.

Photo courtesy of Martin Alari

MP Francis Fayet at the Montreal Courthouse in June 2021 before going to jail.

The man, who was a daily cocaine user at the time, began chatting online with a 16-year-old student about sex, alcohol and drugs. One evening, he tried to contact the teen via webcam, but she refused, saying she wasn’t ready for anything sexual just yet.

He insists

Despite this, he sent her a photo of his penis. The victim then filed a complaint with the police. He also showed his penis to another 15-year-old student via Skype. She ended the conversation in less than a minute.

In June 2021, the deceased 48-year-old teacher was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Judge Sylvie Durant also considered breach of trust as an aggravating circumstance.

– With Nicolas Sayyan

Students are better protected in Ontario

The Ontario College of Education has been at the forefront with its recommendations for good social media behavior and has not hesitated to revoke the licenses of more than 100 teachers in five years for sexual misconduct.

Back in 2011, the Ontario College of Education developed a guide with recommendations on how teachers should conduct themselves online to avoid slip-ups. The document is available in a few clicks on his website.

“We encourage social media for educational purposes through the school platform. But we do not recommend communicating late at night with students, exchanging personal text messages. Online, it is dangerous to be too friendly, to engage in inappropriate conversations,” explains Gabriel Barkani, Communications Manager.

In Quebec, where there is no professional order for teachers, it is school service centers that set their own rules. But they are very unequal from one institution to another, admits Benoît Petit, educational consultant for the RÉCIT Service for school administrators. “Some centers updated their policies 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 rules for the entire profession.

“He lacks a bit of leadership. We must set rules that are clear and, above all, known [de tous] ”, supports Patrick Lussier, professor of criminology at the University of Laval.

118 licenses revoked

What’s more, when an Ontario parent wants to file a complaint against a teacher, they know they can go to the Order, which will review and sanction if necessary. Between 2017 and 2021, the organization revoked the licenses of 118 teachers for sexual assault, averaging more than 23 per year.

In Quebec, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge has revoked only five teaching certificates a year, the average of the past three years.

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