Inappropriate Student-Teacher RelationshipsPublished: Mar 24, 2017 in Sex Crimes
It recent years, news stories across the country about student-teacher relationships have garnered a lot of attention. It is important to remember that in Texas, these relationships are not only considered improper but are also unlawful. The state penal code addresses sexual relationships between students and teachers within the same schools, making this conduct a second-degree felony sex crime for the educator. However, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says more needs to be done. The current law offers too many loopholes for inappropriate relationships to continue.
This is demonstrated by the fact investigations into teacher-student relationship allegations continue to climb. In reality, procedures and policies are necessary that prevent inappropriate, unsafe, and abusive relationships between students and those who have authority over them. These new regulations must also protect teachers and others who are in consensual sexual relationships with individuals who are 17-year-old and older and do not deserve to be fined, sent to prison, or required to register as a sex offender for participating in a healthy intimate relationship.
Student-Teacher Relationship Investigations Increasing
The Texas Education Agency found that investigations into inappropriate student-teacher relationships have grown considerably since 2009. For the fiscal year 2009-2010, there were 141 investigations. Each fiscal year the number of investigations has increased, reaching 222 investigations in 2015-2016. In the last four months of 2016, there had already been 78 investigations.
Why are these types of situations increasing? There may be multiple issues behind improper student-teacher relationships, including cellphones and social media. The rise in social media provides teachers and students the opportunity to connect on a more casual level outside of the classroom, but cellphones and social apps also enable teachers to pursue and maintain inappropriate relationships through private communications.
Texas Governor Calls for Action
In Gov. Abbott’s State of the State Address, he stated Texas leads the nation in teacher-student assaults. Many of these relationships end without the teacher being prosecuted or simply sent to another school. An unjust and dangerous result that puts other minors at risk of sexual abuse and coercion. Gov. Abbott called for tougher legislation and punishments for inappropriate student-teacher relationships, including for individuals who know about a relationship< and do nothing about it.
New Bill Harshens Punishments for Student-Teacher Relationships
HB 218, filed by State Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, would expand Texas’ current law regarding improper student-teacher relationships. Instead of only applying to teachers with proper certifications, the law would cover any school-employed educator regardless of certification, permit, license, or credentials. It would also expand the students protected by the law from only those within the teacher’s same school district to any student in a Texas public or private school.
Educators found guilty of or who received deferred adjudication for improper sexual relationships with students would lose their licenses and be required to register as sex offenders. They would not be able to find a new position at another school district.
The bill would make an administrator’s failure to notify the authorities an offense. It would also require the governing body of a school district or school to inform the parents or guardians of the student about the improper relationship.
Teachers Must Defend Against False Accusations
Any educator that is being investigated for having an improper relationship with a student should contact a Houston sex crimes lawyer immediately to learn about potential defenses under the law. It is an affirmative defense available under Texas law if the educator was not more than 3 years older than the student at the time of the alleged offense and that they were in a relationship formed prior to the educator’s employment at that school. Other possible defenses include that the student and educator were not part of the same school district or are not the applicable student or teachers within the statute. Additionally, if there was no physical sexual contact between the two, the conduct does not amount to a crime under the law.
Contact a Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Today
It is inappropriate for educators to take advantage of their positions of authority and trust to encourage sexual relationships with students. While students and teachers can form close bonds, there are lines that must be drawn to ensure student’s physical and psychological safety. However, there are instances in which teachers are falsely accused of having improper relations with one or more students. These teachers have every right to defend their reputation in the community and innocence in court.