News Feature: Teachers and texting

During court proceedings for teacher Martin Careen, the content of text messages between him and some of his students was revealed.

Looking at the issue of whether it is appropriate for teachers to be having text conversations with their students.

Looking at the issue of whether it is appropriate for teachers to be having text conversations with their students.

During court proceedings for former Abbotsford teacher Martin Careen, the content of text messages between him and some of his students was revealed.

There were explicit messages with one female student that resulted in his conviction and sentencing for sexual exploitation. But there were also friendly chats that, although not criminal in nature, raised questions about the use of this technology.

It’s an issue that has been reviewed by the Abbotsford board of education’s policy committee, and remains on the radar.

Trustee Shirley Wilson, former head of the committee, said the board is looking at expanding its policy on the use of cellphones and multimedia devices to include such things as text messaging and Facebooking.

Wilson said while there are benefits to such efficient forms of communication, there are risks that haven’t been properly addressed because the technology has developed so quickly.

Among the considerations is whether texting (sending brief written messages between two mobile devices) is OK in certain situations – for example, when it’s related to class assignments – or whether it should be banned entirely.

Wilson said she leans more towards the latter.

“Personally, one of the reasons it (texting) is so concerning for me is because it is between two people … Short snippets could become personal and easily misconstrued … I do think there is the risk of it going beyond educational in nature.”

Lauren Arthur, a Grade 12 student at Abbotsford Collegiate, said she and her friends consider texting to be more social and not entirely appropriate for teacher-student contact, although it does have its place.

Arthur, who captained her school basketball team, said the only text messages she has ever received from a teacher were when her coach let her know about any changes in practices or games, or if he was running late. Arthur would then pass the message along to the rest of the team.

She said she prefers email for any homework questions she might have because they are “more professional” and can provide more detail than text messages.

Arthur disapproves of any student-teacher communication that moves beyond classroom-related topics.

“If you’re just texting (your teacher) to have a conversation .. I don’t think there is a need for it.”

Pat Lee, a counsellor and coach at W. J. Mouat Secondary, said he recently purchased a phone that enables him to send texts, and he appreciates the benefits. He uses it only in his role as a coach – to quickly remind players about practices and games or to notify them of any changes – and would not use it to have a conversation with a student.

He acknowledges that without guidelines in place, some teachers – particularly younger instructors who have grown up in the technological era – could cross into sketchy territory.

“There are boundaries around texting, but what those boundaries are haven’t really been made clear at this point.”

The issue has received some attention from the B.C. College of Teachers (BCCT), which holds workshops called “Understanding the Professional Relationship: Respecting the Boundaries.” The focus is on misconduct and social networking issues such as texting and Facebook.

“Our bottom line is that your students are not, and must not be, your friends, and that it is important not to blur the line between the personal and the professional. If you want to use social media in instruction, it should be exclusively for that use,” said Mykle Ludvigsen, senior communications officer with the BCCT.

The only written policy to be found on the issue was from the Catholic Independent Schools Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA). Doug Lauson, CISVA superintendent, said the policy, called Personal and Professional Boundaries, was approved in October 2010 partly in response to the Martin Careen case.

The policy outlines “boundary violations” that must be avoided. These include “… having contact with students via written or electronic means … outside of a professional/educational context” and “texting or online communication with students on the adult’s personal email, or being ‘friends’ on a social networking site.”

Appropriate communication includes using school email to discuss class assignments, the policy states.

Wilson said there are many areas to consider and it could be some time before the Abbotsford school district has an expanded policy in place.

“All of it is with the view of maximizing the opportunity for (technology) while minimizing the risk,” she said.

Over the line

Two recent cases in Abbotsford highlight how teachers can cross the line when using technology to communicate with students:

  • Martin Careen, a 52-year-old religion and history teacher at St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary School, was sentenced to a 60-day jail term this week after being convicted last July of invitation to sexual touching (sexual exploitation) for explicit text messages sent in 2009 to a 17-year-old female student. Evidence presented in court indicated the texts at first were related to school work but became sexual as the conversation progressed.
  • Student teacher Corey Hamade, 30, was sentenced in January to 21 days in jail after pleading guilty last November to invitation to sexual touching in relation to a 15-year-old girl. He was at Rick Hansen Secondary from February to April 2010, doing a practicum toward an education degree. He made sexual suggestions to the student over Facebook and through instant messaging.



Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Dock has reportedly been unused for a long time

People in Metro Vancouver can expect to experience a short wave of heat just in time for Father’s Day, according to Environment Canada. (Black Press Media files)
Short-lived heatwave headed for Metro Vancouver this weekend

Temperatures are expected to be up to 10 degrees higher than average Sunday and Monday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read