Texas Governor Proposes ‘Do Not Hire’ List for Sex Misconduct Offenders in Schools

AP Photo/Ty Wright

Governor Greg Abbott (R) unveiled a policy initiative Tuesday that proposes Texas create a “do-not-hire” registry for educators and other school employees “convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for improper relationships with students.”

Abbott said, “To better protect our students from the ongoing abuse by school employees, I want Texas to create a ‘do not hire’ registry of educators and other adults who have been barred or who should be barred from school employment due to teacher-student predatory relationships.”

In Preventing Crime, Protecting Texans, Punishing Criminals, Abbott recommends that anyone on this list would be banned from working as a teacher, librarian, educational aide, administrator, counselor, school nurse/medical aide. and other positions with direct, unsupervised contact with students such as bus drivers, coaches, and trainers. This applies to campus workers regardless of whether they are full-time employees or independent contractors.

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) would maintain the registry. Public, charter, and private schools would be required to check the registry before making any final hiring decisions. The initiative asks the Texas Legislature to authorize the SBEC to temporarily suspend the teaching certificate of an educator who is criminally charged with a sexual offense. This person would receive paid leave while suspended during an investigation, although, the educator “would be required to pay it back if convicted.”

This plan strives to develop a secure online portal for school superintendents, principals, and charter school directors to report incidences of improper teacher-student relationships and to improve training for education professionals on the prevention, reporting, and mediation methods. Training encompasses “violence of all kinds including child abuse, neglect, and any unlawful interactions between students and teachers.”

Abbott noted these new sanctions would “continue our fight to crack down” on improper relationships in Texas.

Last year, Breitbart Texas reported the state criminalized the actions of educators who crossed the line sexually and/or romantically with students by passing Senate Bill 7. Its lead author, Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), likened the problem to a “plague” in Texas classrooms.

SB 7 imposes stiffer penalties on individuals convicted of having inappropriate relationships with students. It holds other school administrators to account with jail time and fines if they fail to report this egregious behavior. Before SB 7, it was not a crime when a teacher had an sexual affair with a student who was 17, the age of consent, if the teacher worked in a different school district than where the student attended school, or when no sexual contact occurred but the educator solicited the involvement with a student. SB 7 closed this loophole. Now, education professionals convicted of sexual misconduct with students lose their teaching credentials and forfeit their pensions even when they only receive deferred adjudication as punishment. In general, teachers must attend ongoing professional development classes that reinforce appropriate boundaries, relationships, and communications with students. SB 7 mandates school districts adopt written policies that clearly define appropriate social media and other forms of communication among among faculty, staff, and students to avoid flirtacious or lewd text messaging.

In September, Breitbart Texas reported that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) opened a record 302 cases of improper relationships between educators and students for the 2016-17 academic year. This marked the ninth consecutive year that the number of Texas teachers accused of sexual misconduct skyrocketed. It reflected a jump of 36 percent of such reported cases from the 2015-16 school year when the agency accounted for 222 cases, and it was a 145 percent increase since the TEA began tracking these incidents in 2008-09. That year, they reported 123 cases.

Abbott’s 32-page initiative also addresses other sex crimes — sexual assault, human trafficking, and child pornography. It offers policies to better protect victims and punish offenders. The plan proposes reporting sexual assault claims against state elected legislators, plus executive and judicial officials to the Texas Rangers for criminal investigation. It allocates $14 million to fund crime lab evidence kits in 2020-21 “to eliminate the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits,” stating the Criminal Justice Division of the Office of the Governor will lead the effort with a $1 million grant to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The initiative sets aside $22 million for DPS to institute regional human trafficking squads statewide and stiffen criminal penalties. The plan calls for tougher child pornography penalties to “more appropriately reflect the heinous nature of these crimes” and revise “the punishment framework for possession or promotion of child pornography” and involvement in sexually exploiting a child pornographically.

The governor introduced the plan during a press conference at the Children’s Assessment Center in Houston where he was joined by families impacted by these types of crimes.

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


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