Teacher-student sexual misconduct cases are on the rise nationwide. It is a disturbing trend that is higher than ever and, in Texas public schools, it has increased by 41 percent in less than six months.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) added 74 purported teacher-student inappropriate sexual cases to its previous tally of 179. These new cases occurred between September 1, 2014 and February 28, 2015, KSAT-12 reported on March 16.
Last year, Breitbart Texas reported that sexual misconduct cases shot up by 27 percent from 141 alleged cases in the 2009-10 school year to 179 cases in the 2013-14 school year.
TEA spokeswoman Lauren Callahan told the Houston Chronicle that the agency’s educator investigations unit has begun looking into the 74 newest cases of student-teacher relationships.
These latest figures landed Texas the dubious distinction of leading the nation “in terms of the sheer number of cases recorded with 116 of the 781 accusations and convictions” occurring instate,” according to Alabama newsite al.com. Texas is not alone — Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, Vermont and Mississippi also topped the bad teacher list.
Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff for the US Department of Education, heads up Drive West Communications, a Houston-based research firm that tracks reports of this kind of misconduct. He holds social media (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and text messaging) responsible for the explosion of classroom sexual predators that has “created an open gateway for inappropriate behavior,” including developing “improper relationships with students out of sight of parents and principals.”
In 2014, about 35 percent of the sexual misconduct cases between educators and their students involved social media nationwide. News Fix reported there were almost 800 sex crimes involving school employees and students across the country. They pointed out that since these figures come from news reports, some experts believe the actual number of sexual improprieties are higher.
They also cited a report mandated by Congress that estimated 10 percent of public school students, approximately 4.5 million, are involved in some form of sexual misconduct with teachers, including verbal harassment that is sexual in nature.
Abbott called teacher-student sexual misconduct a national epidemic. The majority of these cases involve males, although more females are arrested for inappropriate relationships with their students.
These disturbing new figures in Texas were reported amid a March wave of new sexual misconduct allegations across the state.
In Burnet County, former high school basketball coach Jose Miguel Sierra pleaded guilty to a year old crime on two counts of an improper sexual relationship with a 17 year-old student, the Daily Sentinel reported on March 17.
He received 10 years of probation and, as part of a plea agreement, he forfeited the ability to serve as a certified coach in any state, nor can he pursue employment as a coach, assistant coach, teacher’s aide or substitute teacher at any public or private primary or secondary school.
In North Texas, middle school math teacher Leigh Claiborn Mahaffey, 35, was arrested following the alleged victim’s father finding sexually explicit messages on his teenager’s phone and reported them to police in Grayson County.
Mahaffey has been held on $250,000 bond at the Denison City Jail, since March 13 and could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of sexual assault of a child, according to KXII-12. They also reported that that police believed the female student in the case was 14 years-old when the sexual misconduct started.
In Denton County, high school band teacher Jimmie Leeroy Exline Jr., 47, was arrested on a charge of indecency with a child, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle. He was released on a $10,000 bond hours following his arrest. The Sanger Independent School District (ISD) Superintendent did not identify Exline by name but acknowledged that “an employee admitted to engaging in inappropriate and unethical behavior” in an emailed statement on March 13 which also indicated that the unnamed individual “tendered an immediate resignation that the district accepted.”
Previously, on March 11, KCIT-14 reported on a teacher-student sexual misconduct case in Hereford ISD, outside of Amarillo. The alleged incident happened before the current school year. If convicted, the teacher will be charged with second degree felony. By Texas law, it is not a sex offense that would require registration.
It was not clear if the Texas school districts involved in these March incidents sent home correspondences to parents. The Denton Record-Chronicle noted that many school districts have adopted a policy of informing parents in writing when a teacher is accused of a sex crime so they can talk to their children about any questionable interactions they may have had with the teacher.
In all of these cases, school district officials point out that they comply fully with law enforcement during these investigations. In Texas, an educator’s certification is automatically revoked if convicted of a criminal offense and sentenced to prison, Callahan told the Houston Chronicle, adding that when educators receive deferred adjudication for a crime, they may not teach while serving that sentence.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.