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Troy Mansfield was the third-grade teacher of the little victim with the blond ponytail, said Trooper Robert Norton, of the Pennsylvania State Police.
"This is the way people communicate today, particularly young people," she said, "and sometimes, you have teachers who are not that much older, because they are just starting out, and they grew up with text messaging." Often adults who have their eyes on a child invest time in making them comfortable, police said. "A lot of the time, these kids mistake the grooming activity for friendship, which is exactly what it's designed to do -- to look like a platonic relationship, when all they are really doing is getting closer and closer to them socially so they can get closer and closer to them physically." A recent case involves Kelsey Peterson, a 25-year-old Nebraska teacher accused of having sex with a 13-year-old former student.
"The fact is a teacher can show absolutely zero outward signs of interest in a child, but because of technology, they can have an ongoing relationship and no one would know," said Ted Thompson, the executive director for the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children. They warn their kids about the risk, but they give cell phones a nod.
A New York mom, who requested anonymity because her kids don't know about her surveillance, said she uses software to regularly check her children's e-mail and online activity on the home computer.
His client has a preliminary hearing on January 22.
Before cell phones, laptops and Sidekicks -- a Black Berry-like device for the younger, hipper crowd -- someone might have noticed that a teacher was "grooming" a child, or being way too attentive, too often. Now, teachers have weeks, months and years to secretly undermine a child's parents and get a student to go along with sexual contact.