HOUSTON - More teachers are getting terminated or arrested after being suspected of having inappropriate interactions with their young students. FOX 26 has reported on eight different incidents involving teachers from various districts in the Greater Houston area since March 2022. The latest in January of this year were reported from New Caney and Waller Independent School Districts.
Fox Digital recently found nearly 350 educators across the United States were arrested on child sex crimes in 2022. The majority of the arrests involved alleged crimes against students.
"As a parent, it is alarming. It is concerning," says Emi Juarez. She recently removed her children from Waller ISD and reacted to the recent teacher arrest in the district. "Our children are our most precious gift, and it's something that seems to be rising every day."
FOX 26 reached out to several parents in the Waller area to comment, but many declined for fear of retaliation in the small community. They were glad there was a resource available to help officials identify the recent problem.
CrisisGo is software that creates multiple ways for schools, organizations, and workplaces to communicate during an emergency or report a potentially dangerous issue. The developers, based out of St. Louis and California, were inspired to help create safer environments after tragedies like the Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech school shootings.
"The goal was to make the kids feel safer," says Chief Security Officer Jacob Lewis. "Reports can be submitted anonymously, making sure that, especially with students, they feel the comfort of submitting that voice - where they can reach out and share what they're seeing and hearing, and don't fear of any repercussions that might come with it."
A student, parent, or staff member can go to the Waller ISD website and anonymously submit the information that pertains to any potential threat involving someone in the district. Tips can include photos, video, and audio.
"We consider it a valuable part of our increased safety and security measures this school year," says a Waller ISD spokesperson. "We are thankful to have a place where anyone can report a concern, major or minor, at any time. Our safety team reviews tips and takes appropriate action as quickly as possible upon receipt."
Lewis tells FOX 26 CrisisGo is currently being used in various ways in 10 different Independent School Districts in the Greater Houston area. The names of the districts could not be released to FOX 26 by the company without permission from the districts themselves.
A well-known Houston organization is also doing what it can to keep schools safer.
The Safe School institute, a part of CrimeStoppers of Houston, trains students on how to create proactive conversations to protect themselves and their peers in multiple ways. Part of their training involves how to spot improper behavior and learning about having a "trusted triangle" which are people they can trust at home, school, and in their community.
"Children are around adults all of their life," says Kaitlynn Frey of the Safe Schools and Communities Institutes. "They're being told to respect authority. "They're looking at these adults to make decisions. With that trusted triangle, we want their parents and guardians to sit down with them and talk to them about what a trusted adult looks like and what happens if a trusted adult may go past that boundary."
Since the start of their free prevention programming in 2013, SSI has impacted more than 70 K-12 districts. The program reaches anywhere between 10-15,000 students per month in the Houston area. Frey believes their messaging is working.
"We constantly get emails and calls from counselors and teachers saying they've had a student open up," says Frey. "We might have been talking to them about cyber safety, and they've come out and talked about a bullying situation or a teen dating situation that they've witnessed or seen. That's what we want."
You can learn more about SSI's training, its vast menu of services, and webinars here.
Juarez says she has begun having these tough, but necessary conversations with her children. She believes parents should make an effort to talk with their students and stay in close contact with their teachers.
"Speak with your children as much as you can," says Juarez. "Get involved with them with their activities. I know that nowadays it's harder technology, but we need to have that time to speak every day."