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I-Team Exclusive: Crossing The Line

By Charlotte Huffman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- We put our children in the care of teachers every day.

Most are trustworthy but some are "crossing the line" into extremely inappropriate behavior by having sex with their students.

It's a growing problem.

CBS 3 Investigative Reporter Charlotte Huffman reports on the numbers and some of the predators.

Bridgett Szychulski was living a double life.

She was married with children but the music teacher at Lenape Middle School in Doylestown also had a sexual affair with one of her 14-year-old students.

Szychulski pleaded guilty to statutory sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault in January and did not have a comment when Huffman asked her about the case.

Bucks County prosecutors said she could receive two to three years in prison when she is sentenced later this year.

Szychulski isn't the only teacher making headlines for having sex with students.

There's Berks County middle school teacher Jessica Saienni.

She pleaded guilty last year in Reading and was sentenced to 6 to 23 months in prison.

Saienni is now registered on Pennsylvania's Megan's Law website.

Sarah O'Neill, a former English teacher in Exton, Chester County also pleaded guilty.

Coatesville High School English teacher Mark Hostutler was arrested earlier this month in Chester County.

It's a serious crime that's happening more and more.

The I-Team dug through state records of all Pennsylvania educators who have lost their teaching certificates because of sexual-related incidents.

Over the past 10 years the number of educators accused or convicted of having sex with students has increased 81 percent.

In 2014, one third of the teachers were women.

"You know it's upsetting, really upsetting and you just hope your children aren't put at risk," said a Lenape Middle School parent.

"Kids are at risk at every school," says Charol Shakeshaft, a professor of education at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Shakeshaft conducted the most recent study of teacher-student sexual abuse in 2004, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education.

The effects of the abuse can be lasting for the victim.

"Once they grow up a little bit and sort it out they feel exploited,  they feel used,  they feel they can't trust people that they're supposed to be able to trust," said Shakeshaft.

One man who didn't want to be identified describes his feelings about being abused by a teacher when he was 13-years-old.

"I think I'm a lot more scared," he said. "The anxiety is overwhelming sometimes, there is this fear that someone is going to be able to tell that this happened to you."

"It's a huge abuse of a position of trust," Chester County's District Attorney Tom Hogan tells Huffman.

Hogan says today's technology and social media enable inappropriate relationships.

"Every school should tell every teacher the only time you're allowed to have electronic contact with a student is via the school's email," said Hogan.  "Schools need to stay on top of it and a lot of them have left their policies get outdated."

Erica Ginnetti used her cell phone daily with one of her students.

Records show she even sent him revealing videos and photos.

The Lower Moreland High School math teacher, who was married with children, later had sex with the boy in her car.

When asked by Huffman why she would risk her teaching career, Ginnetti said, "Oh my gosh, are you serious right now?"

Ginnetti pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

She was fired from her job.

We checked Lower Moreland's policy on student/teacher communication.

It makes no mention of teachers being prohibited from texting students.

We've set up links for you if you think a student is being abused by a teacher or school employee or having an inappropriate relationship with one.

Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct And Exploitation

In Pennsylvania

ChildLine and Abuse Registry

In New Jersey

All reports of child abuse and neglect, including those occurring in institutional settings such as child care centers, schools, foster homes and residential treatment centers, must be reported to the State Central Registry (SCR). This is a toll-free, 24-hour, seven-days-a-week hotline.


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