Melbourne: The numbers of schools in New South Wales which are under scanner for sexual impropriety, grooming students and illicit affairs have tripled this year.
It was obtained that 117 allegations of sexual misconduct have been reported to the Department of Education and Training between January 1 and October 31 this year in comparison to 46 from last year.
Deputy NSW Ombudsman Steve Kinmond said the rise in sexual misconduct claims was partly a result of teachers using email and Facebook to contact students out of the classroom and after hours.
Kinmond said such direct access, which could lead to flirting, grooming and indecent image swapping was ‘disturbing’.
“We are alive to the role of technology in relation to these offences and it``s a worrying trend in terms of the nature and regularity of the offences,” the Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying.
“Inappropriate use of electronic devices is becoming a disturbing trend, but it also leaves an evidence trail. It’s a potential area for obtaining evidence in an investigative challenge,” Kinmond added.
The NSW Ombudsman and the police Sex Crimes Squad have begun monitoring teachers’ online accounts where there has been reason to suspect employees of grooming students.
Although the Ombudsman’s report has exposed serious cases of sexual misconduct in NSW schools, there are cases where students deliberately target a teacher out of spite, making up a claim of sexual misconduct.
“We must remember that some of these claims will be made up in spite which is why it is important that our teachers are properly represented legally and not left alone and hanging,” said a spokesman for the NSW Teachers Federation, Gary Zadkovich.
“We support the Department in conducting a thorough investigation of these claims,” he concluded.