Have You Been Accused of an Improper Teacher-Student Relationship?Published: Jan 27, 2020 in Sex Crimes, Sex Crimes Involving Children
Teaching is challenging and forming personal relationships with students may be the most effective way to make a difference. But as a teacher, you should always be aware of the boundaries between you and your students.
If you are ever accused of violating those boundaries and forming an inappropriate relationship with a student in Harris County, you need to speak with Houston sex crimes lawyer Ned Barnett immediately.
Improper Student-Teacher Relationships in TX Are a Growing Problem
Texas school administrators, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC), law enforcement agencies, and lawmakers are well aware of the rising number of improper teacher-student relationships.
During the 2018-19 fiscal year, the TEA investigated 442 inappropriate relationships. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the TEA opened 429 cases regarding improper teacher-student relationships. The number of reports of impropriety has increased annually for over a decade.
The TEA speculates the rising use of social media and electronic communications are partly to blame. But the greater number of reports also is based on enhanced reporting requirements and penalties for administrators who fail to report the issue.
To combat the problem, Texas enacted laws that:
- Set boundaries regarding teacher-student electronic communications;
- Closed a loophole regarding teachers who have inappropriate relationships with students at other schools;
- Broadened administrators’ requirements to report misconduct to the TEA, and
- Increased penalties for administrators who fail to report misconduct.
You Can Lose Your Job and License
Local and state authorities are on the lookout for any evidence or allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships between teachers and students. They are also quick to draw conclusions. In many cases, schools and districts are focused on protecting themselves, even at the expense of letting a falsely accused teacher go.
The TEA investigates allegations of improper teacher-student relationships. If you resign or are dismissed due to allegations of sexual misconduct, Texas law requires the principal of your school to notify the superintendent, who, in turn, must notify the TEA. The outcome of the investigation may be in the teacher’s favor or it can lead to the loss of the teacher’s license.
Teachers also can be charged with one or more felony offenses for an improper relationship between educator and student and other relevant sex crimes, such as indecency with a child or sexual assault.
Penalties for a Conviction of Sexual Misconduct with an Underage Student
Texas Penal Code Section 21.12 prohibits employees of public or private primary or secondary schools from participating in sexual contact or intercourse with a student. The law encompasses all employees, not just teachers. It also includes students enrolled at the same or a different school as well as students of all ages.
Improper relationships between a student and teacher or other school employee is a second-degree felony. If convicted, you can be penalized by between two and 20 years in prison and fined up to $10,000. You also will be required to register as a sex offender, which under Texas law, leads to automatic revocation of your teaching certificate.
You will lose your right to vote during your sentence, lose your right to own a firearm, and experience other collateral consequences, as well. If you share custody of your children, these allegations can impact your custody negatively. You will also likely find it difficult to obtain other employment after you are released from prison.
What You Should Do If Accused of an Improper Teacher-Student Relationship
If you learn of accusations against you regarding an inappropriate teacher-student relationship, we advise you to:
- Contact a Houston sex crimes attorney immediately.
- Do not speak with the student allegedly involved.
- Do not have private communications with any other students.
- Do not attempt to clear up misunderstandings on your own.
- Do not comment on the allegations to anyone without speaking to an attorney first.
- Do not continue to use social media.
Contact a Houston Child Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer
You may worry that hiring a lawyer will make false allegations look true. We understand your worries and fears. But the best way to handle the situation is carefully and formally. From this point forward, you have to strive to avoid all situations or statements that could support the claim of impropriety or lead to further misunderstandings. This is the best way to protect your career and fight against felony charges.