Texas Teacher Sex Misconduct Law Goes into Effect Amid Record Case Numbers

Teacher Sexual Misconduct
File Photos of Teacher Mugshot Compiled by Breitbart Texas

The deterrent law cracking down on Texas teachers who engage in sexual misconduct with students went into effect on September 1. The law, which also addresses other inappropriate relationships with minors takes effect amid record numbers of cases under investigation by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

In May, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 7, which intends to curb the number of these cases by closing loopholes and imposing harsher punishments on those educators who violate the public trust by forming improper emotional attachments and/or engaging in sexual activities with public and charter school children.

When signing the bill into law, Abbott noted that “a small number of teachers are tarnishing the image of some of our best and brightest teachers.” Likewise, in 2016, TEA official Debbie Ratcliffe told Breitbart Texas the majority of Texas education professionals behave in a moral and ethical way. Still, the minority of wayward educators landed the state with a precarious reputation, one that Abbott described as “a dubious ranking, a ranking that has an incredibly high number of inappropriate teacher-student relationships.” He added: “…by signing this law, we’re saying no more are we going to allow that to happen.”

SB 7 also requires teachers, in general, to attend ongoing professional development classes that reinforce appropriate boundaries, relationships, and communications with students. Social media has played an unfortunate role in these illicit teacher and student relationships, often spiraling off into lewd text messaging and sexual activity. SB 7 requires that school districts adopt written policies defining appropriate electronic communications among campus faculty, staff members, and students.

Additionally, school administrators such as principals, directors, and superintendents can no longer look the other way and fail to report incidences of improper teacher and student relationships, or they may face jail time and fines ranging from $500 to 10,0oo.

In February, state Senator Paul Bettencourt, lead author of SB 7, called this epidemic a “statewide plague.” He said his bill would also squash these improper teacher-student relationships by stopping the practice of “passing the trash” — a practice that occurs when educators accused of the perverse conduct often get rehired in other school districts and victimize kids again.

In May, following the governor signing SB 7 into law, Bettencourt stated: “It is very clear that the scourge of teachers preying on students for sexual relationships will not be tolerated.”

In the coming weeks, the TEA will release its 12-month figures for teacher-student sexual misconduct cases that they investigated in the 2016-17 school year. However, Breitbart Texas recently received preliminary 11-month numbers from the agency that reflect their Educator Investigations Unit opened 282 cases between September 1, 2016, and July 31, 2017. Already, this finding eclipses the 222 cases that TEA investigators opened during the entire 2015-16 academic year.

Breitbart Texas reported the number of teacher sexual misconduct incidents has escalated over eight consecutive years. In 2008-09, the agency reported 123 investigations. In 2009-10, they increased to 141 cases; in 2010-11, 152 cases; 2011-12, 156 cases; 2012-13, 163; 2013-14, 179; and 2014-15, 188.  The 2014-15 spike was so troubling that some state lawmakers convened in between legislative sessions to seek policy solutions to present in this year’s legislative session. Then, in 2016, the TEA asked state lawmakers to fund nearly $400,000 into their 2018-19 academic budget so they may hire two more investigators and an administrator to better work all these cases. Essentially, the number of cases skyrocketed 80 percent from the 123 cases reported in 2008-09 and the 222 investigations accounted for in 2015-16.

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

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