The number of Texas teachers accused of sexual misconduct with students soared for the 10th consecutive academic year, resulting in a staggering 429 investigations opened by education officials in 2017-18.
Late Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the administrative agent that oversees the state’s primary and secondary public education, told Breitbart Texas by email they investigated 429 cases of inappropriate educator relationships during the 2017-18 school year.
The 429 cases reflect a 42 percent increase over the number of teacher-student sexual misconduct investigations TEA launched in 2016-17. Likewise, this year’s total represents almost a 250 percent uptick in cases since 2008-09, the academic year when the agency began tracking these purported incidents.
In 2008-09, the total number of reported cases was 123. Every year since, these figures rose. The agency opened 141 investigations in 2009-10, 152 in 2010-11, 156 in 2011-12, 163 in 2012-13, 179 in 2013-14, 188 in 2014-15, and 222 in 2015-16. Then, the TEA recorded a whopping 302 cases in 2016-17, a 36 percent increase from the 222 investigations they opened in the previous year.
TEA officials likely were not surprised by this year’s troubling yet record-breaking total. In June, the agency confirmed to Breitbart Texas that their Educator Investigations (EI) unit opened 316 cases by May 31, already surpassing last year’s tally of 302. The TEA probes these cases on a fiscal year that ends on August 31.
Still, TEA investigators are hopeful a silver lining lurks within this year’s startling number of sexual misconduct investigations. They suspect many of the reported cases are the result of Senate Bill 7 (SB 7), teacher-student sexual misconduct crackdown legislation state lawmakers passed in 2017 and Governor Greg Abbott signed into law.
“Keep in mind that SB 7 had two main purposes: the first being to address inappropriate teacher-student relationships and the second being to encourage reporting of those and other incidents of educator misconduct,” said Doug Phillips, TEA’s director of educator investigations. He spoke to Breitbart Texas recently by email about what TEA anticipated from this year’s number of cases.
“Our theory is that the increased emphasis on reporting that includes serious penalties for failing to report misconduct to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) for superintendents and principals has led to the increase in reports across the board, including inappropriate relationships,” stated Phillips.
“That being said, based on the past several years and the increases we saw each year, we would have expected to see an increase even without the passage of SB 7,” noted Phillips. “I think it is also important to note the increased awareness about inappropriate relationships playing a role in increased discovery and reporting.”
A year before the Texas Legislature passed SB 7, Phillips voiced concerns that cases of inappropriate educator relationships may have gone unreported because of purported secret deals schools made with teachers accused of misconduct to keep this information under the radar. However, since SB 7 went into effect on September 1, 2017, education professionals must report alleged incidents of sexual misconduct or risk facing jail time and fines from $500 up to $10,000.
Under SB 7, the state automatically revokes a teaching license when an educator receives deferred adjudication or must register as a sex offender. The deterrent law criminalizes romantic and/or sexual entanglements with students regardless of what school district an educator works or where a student attends classes.
Also, teachers have not been the only education professionals accused of such egregious behavior. Breitbart Texas has reported on aides, coaches, principals, janitors, and bus drivers under investigation over sexual misconduct allegations.
Earlier this year, SB 7 lead author Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) told Breitbart Texas he and his staff continue to monitor the law’s progress. He hopes to accomplish more to eradicate this troubling reality plaguing public schools in the next legislative session which begins in January 2019.
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