Cover Story: Crossing the line

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - We heard the stories of teachers having sexual contact with students and scratch our heads. What's going on here? How does this happen? Why do so many seem to be crossing the line? PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson has our Cover Story.

It's not our imagination, experts say it is happening more often.

Opportunity for misconduct has always been there but add to it our views about sexuality changing, kids maturing sooner and the explosion of technology and it becomes clear.

Type in "teacher" and "sex" in a news search engine and it'll curl your hair on how many news stories you'll find.  Whereas a decade ago may have been a few handfuls they're everywhere now.

The Charlotte area no exception.. with the arrest of three teachers recently whose court cases were on the docket Monday.

"We are much more aware of this problem that we can call sexual misconduct."

Dr. Richard McAnulty clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at UNC Charlotte has written books on human sexuality and is often quoted on the subject.

He says we're seeing sexual misconduct  not just at the school level - it's everywhere.

Witness the slate of politicians caught cheating on their wives.  Couple that with society becoming more sexualized, say only the words "wardrobe malfunction" and we all know what that means.  Sex is more a part of our society.

But in the school environment it can create a powder keg for sexual misconduct.

Says McAnulty, "As the boundaries for sexual relationships have become more blurred we're seeing people who in this context of permissiveness and openness are willing to take more chances."

Opportunity for adults and students has always been there in the schools but psychologists say technology has made it easier to foster inappropriate relationships.

With texting, emails and social media web sites like Facebook teachers and students can exchange more freely - where they wouldn't have been able to as easily years ago.

Children also reach sexual maturity earlier in life which puts them at greater risk.  Psychologists like Dr. McAnulty believe it's a phenomenon we'll need to be addressed.

"It's a new phenomenon. It's a new world when it comes to having to understand what are healthy versus unhealthy boundaries in relationships between teachers and students."

Best way for a parent to keep a lid on any inappropriate behavior with you child the experts say be involved in your children's life.  Teach them responsible decision making and what the boundaries are.  And to the extent that you can monitor their activity on the Internet and on their cell phone.