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Texas Education Agency: Revisiting Educator-Student Sexual Misconduct

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Teacher-student sexual misconduct in public schools is a serious matter. Last year, Texas landed at the unenviable top position on the list in a Drive West Communications study. A whopping 116 of the nation’s 781 recorded educator-student misconduct cases happened in the Lone Star State. This revelation came on the heels of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) experiencing a 27 percent increase in these kinds of inquiries which was was followed by 74 new cases under TEA investigation, as Breitbart Texas previously reported.

The TEA had a bone to pick with a percentage used by Breitbart Texas. They did not; however, contest the contents of the article. Breitbart Texas took their concerns into consideration and spoke with TEA to learn how they calculate their statistics while also revisiting the much bigger issue of salacious educator misbehavior and how it is being handled.

The reason for their issue with the 41 percent cited in the article was that agency does not look at mid-year percentages this way, according to TEA spokeswoman Lauren Callahan. They do track and release data on the sexual misconduct cases, but they only report hard year-end fiscal numbers on a year-to-year basis. In fairness to the TEA, this year’s mid-year number of 74 cases was down from the 82 reported cases in 2013-14, according to figures Callahan provided to Breitbart Texas.

Those figures also revealed that at the mid-year mark for 2012-13, there were 66 cases under investigations. The year ended with 163 alleged cases.  The 2013-14 half-year mark was at 82 cases, with a final count of 179 cases. Because of that 27 percent bump up in sexual misconduct cases, investigations jumped from 141 in fiscal year ending 2010 to 179 in year-end 2014. Breitbart Texas was examining  these newest 74 cases above the 179.

TEA wanted Texans to know that more than 334,000 public school teachers, who comprise the overwhelming majority of teachers, are acting in an appropriate and ethical sexual manner.

Still, Education News called out a laundry list of Texas cases. Among the highlights were a former Aldine teacher admitting to giving a student a birthday lap dance, a Donna school security guard suspended (and later reinstated) for allegedly sending sexual texts to female students, a Waco band director who had sex with a high school girl in his music room, and a San Antonio area teacher who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for producing child pornography with a 16-year-old student whom he impregnated. Breitbart Texas also reported on the alarming spike in sexual abuse by Texas teachers last year.

Bad educators exist, unfortunately. And even though not the majority, Breitbart Texas asked Callahan what preventative measures are in place to screen and monitor educators and administrators for behavioral issues or mental and emotional disturbances including sexual misconduct or other ethical issues.

She shared that the TEA anticipates its teachers and administrators will live up to the educator code of ethics in the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) under Title 19, Part 7, Chapters 247.1 and 247.2 which lay out behavioral expectations. The TAC 249 mentions “absence of those moral, mental, and psychological qualities” but it comes on the back end of the misconduct when addressing disciplinary proceedings for educators.

Although the State Board for Educator Certification Disciplinary Guidelines require educators to be fingerprinted since the passage of Senate Bill 9 in 2007, there does not appear to be anything in the dstatute that clearly addresses preventative mental health measures or monitoring to offset the likelihood of these inappropriate sexcapades with minors who they are entrusted to teach.

Callahan told Breitbart Texas, “While the rules specify that an educator must be of good moral and ethical character, they don’t specifically reference an educator’s mental health. Many policies regarding personnel matters are set by local districts, and so some districts may have policies that reference their employees’ mental health.”

There are 1,247 public school districts, open enrollment charter schools, juvenile justice districts, Texas School For the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Texas School For the Deaf, according to the TEA. Systems are in place to accommodate the five million students they serve with Student Study Teams (SST) and Response to Intervention (RtI) specialists for at-risk students.

Counseling and mental health services recommendations are available to students. There are lengthy school district codes of conduct handbooks for students, safe school act student directives and disciplines in the Texas Education Code and supports for students under the Texas Administrative Code.

There’s even the Texas Behavior Support Initiative (TBSI) which also rigorously addresses student emotional, mental and behavioral health across 20 regions. Like them or not, Individual Education Plans (IEP), In-School Suspension (ISS), Out-of-School Suspension (OSS), expulsion, Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP), and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) are rooted in place as student interventions, often with some form of counseling. But, there are no uniform statewide preventative protocols in place to monitor the mental health of public school educators?

TEA only has an Educator Investigations (EI) unit that looks into these cases of teacher sexual misconduct, once they are reported by either alerting the database where those fingerprints are stored, or a superintendent files a 249 report. They are required to report not later than seven calendar days after they first become aware of a reported criminal history or a termination or resignation based on an act of misconduct. It is filed after an arrest or a termination/resignation that is the result of educator misconduct.

When the TEA Educator Investigations (EI) unit receives notification of a case, they follow strict and clear guidelines that can include opening an investigation or cooperating with law enforcement in an ongoing investigation.

Upon completion of an investigation the EI unit may close a case,  attempt to informally settle it with an educator or forward it to State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) Legal department for further handling. If necessary,the EI unit will file the matter at the State Office of Administration Hearings (SOAH) to sanction an educator in a hearing where the education professional can present a defense that results with SOAH judge recommending sanctions. These sanctions can vary from a reprimand to permanent certification revocation. Should educators receive deferred adjudication for a crime, they may not teach while serving that sentence.

Callahan noted that the process from start to finish can “possibly take years.”

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.

 

 

 


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