Lawmakers Tackle Texas Teacher Sex Misconduct ‘Plague’

Texas lawmakers met Thursday to begin tackling a troubling epidemic–teacher-student sexual misconduct. They discussed proposed legislation that will crack down on the rampant problem ravaging classrooms across the state.

“This is an ‘everybody has a problem’ issue. Improper relationships between students and educators is a statewide plague,” said Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), who authored Senate Bill 7, one of the pieces of legislation the Senate Committee on Education discussed.

“This is not an urban versus rural problem. Teacher misconduct reports have been filed in Austin, Bastrop, Cleburne, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Jefferson, Katy, San Antonio, and Waxahachie; the list is almost endless,” added Bettencourt.

Breitbart Texas reported that, since 2008, the number of these cases opened by the Educator Investigations Unit of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) jumped 80 percent to an alarming all time high of 222 reported incidences in the 2015-16 school year. In December 2015, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick charged the Senate’s education committee with the interim session task of identifying policy solutions to this wanton classroom crisis in preparation for the 2017 Legislature. Last year, the TEA asked legislators to fund nearly $400,000 in their 2018-19 budget so they can adequately staff and better investigate cases. Thursday, Bettencourt noted a 43 percent increase in the number of teacher sexual misconduct cases opened by the TEA already this school year.

In his 2017 State of the State, Governor Greg Abbott pointed out the dubious distinction that “Texas reportedly leads the nation in teacher-student sexual assaults.” He called for legislation that imposed strong consequences on education professionals who violate the public trust by crossing the line sexually with students and for those school administrators who ignore the problem.

Breitbart Texas reported Bettencourt said about SB 7 that it cracks down on these improper teacher-student relationships by stopping the practice of “passing the trash.” This is where educators accused of such perverse conduct often get rehired in other school districts and prey on kids again.

SB 7 also holds principals and superintendents to account with jail time when they look the other way and fail to report teacher carnal misdeeds, prohibits school districts from rehiring convicted educator predators, and mandates the automatic revocation of a teaching credential even if an educator only receives deferred adjudication.

Presently, it is not a crime when a teacher hooks up with a student who is the age of consent, 17, and works at a different school district than where that student attends. SB 7 criminalizes lascivious educator behavior regardless of school district.

Social media has also posed a problem in educator-student relationships, spiraling off into lewd text messaging and sexual activity. SB 7 requires school districts adopt written policies defining appropriate electronic communications among campus faculty, staff members, and students.

“This is not a victimless crime,” said Bettencourt. “Students are affected immediately, and their stories are heartbreaking. Inappropriate relationships between teachers and students must be stamped out, period.”

SB 7 was left pending in committee as was SB 653, a bill authored by Senator Van Taylor (R-Plano). It also takes a hard line approach to cracking down on schoolhouse perverts. It creates a “registry of persons barred from employment” for Texas education professionals found guilty of such misconduct. Besides teachers, SB 653 includes school librarians, aides, administrators, counselors, or any other individuals “with direct, unsupervised contact with students” who engage in such degenerate behavior.

This week, Representative Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park) introduced similar legislation, HB 218, in the Texas House. Breitbart Texas reported HB 218 closes loopholes, stiffens prosecution measures and penalties for wayward educators, and expands subpoena power when investigating these cases. The bill also mandates school districts adopt continuing education programs on appropriate educator-student relationships, boundaries, and communications for teachers.

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