FOX 45 Investigates: Increased reports of inappropriate teacher-student relationships

Madeline Marx (Right) and Jessica Langford (left) have both been accused of inappropriate relationships with students. (WKEF/WRGT)

Ohio (WKEF/WRGT)-- Teachers and inappropriate relationships; in late 2017 two high profile cases rocked the towns of Miamisburg and Kettering.

FOX 45 investigated, and found it's not easy to find Ohio's records of these cases, and looked at what's being done at the statehouse and in schools to stop it from getting worse.

In Kettering, substitute teacher Madeline Marx was indicted and charged with sexual battery of two teenage students.

In Miamisburg, math teacher Jessica Langford was charged for an alleged sexual relationship with a middle schooler.

Marx and Langford are just two of the local cases involving teachers FOX 45 has investigated in recent years.

"Certainly more than I remember hearing about," Dave Leitch, Assistant Dean at Cedarville University's School of Education said.

He's teaching future teachers a lesson using current events.

"When I was getting my teacher's license we didn't discuss this, it wasn't mentioned in the classroom, and so now it is mentioned in the classroom and you need to systematically approach it and talk about it," Leitch said.

"The question is are they occurring more or are we just hearing about them more," he continued.

FOX 45 went to the Ohio Department of Education, who's tracked teacher-student sex cases statewide since 2005.

The latest report from the Office of Professional Conduct says the numbers of referrals to their office has increased from 4,770 cases in 2005 to 11,537 cases in 2016.

The number of those cases investigated has also increased from 786 to 1,361.

But it's not all black and white.

Tracking the cases of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students year to year isn't all in one place.

In the annual reports from the Office of Professional Conduct, it's called at least three different things, making it hard to measure and compare.

For the purpose of this report, we looked at the categories called "criminal sex", "sex abuse" and "inappropriate relationships."

The 2016 report total for those categories; 91 cases.

2015 saw 117 cases, while 2014 totaled 97 cases.

The Ohio Department of Education did not talk on camera and did not answer our questions about why this information is found under so many different names.

"Obviously everything we've seen over the past months and year has been very unfortunate and shows that there has to be more done," State Representative Niraj Antani (R, District 42) said.

Antani said state lawmakers are acting to require more sexual harassment education in all grades of Ohio schools, hoping those numbers will drop even more.

Professor Leitch said to fix it, communication between teachers and students must change.

"Cell phones in schools are just a chronic problem," Leitch said, "Then say well how about I, you know, if you have any questions here's my number just send me a text if you have an issue. And then you start texting back and forth and then it's well how about I drive you home."

Leitch teaches future teachers three principals of communication.

"My three principals are this, never touch a student, never be in a position where you're one on one with a student in a private situation where there's not someone else watching, and then never get in a communication system where it's private communication," Leitch said.

"Don't send anything on a personal level to a student do it all through your school's official communication process."

Madeline Marx is still awaiting trial.

Police said she's admitted to sending one of her teen victims nude pictures on social media.

"And all of a sudden you've got an indictment and you've lost your career," Leitch said.

The 2017 report from the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct is set to be released later in the Spring 2018.

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