A Texas high school teacher, who previously admitted to having sex and smoking marijuana with a former underage male student, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of improper conduct as part of a plea agreement.
Michelle Schiffer, 24, taught world history in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. Last year, she was accused of sexual misconduct and using marijuana with a male student who was 15-years-old at the time of the alleged encounters. Then, a Cypress Springs High School teacher, she said she met with the teen for sex at least twice during the summer of 2017, according to court records.
“Michelle has taken responsibility for her actions and is very remorseful,” said her attorney Grant Scheiner following the hearing. “At sentencing Michelle plans to personally apologize to the complainant and his family, as well as everyone affected. It’s highly doubtful she will have any trouble with the law again.”
Last November, Cypress Springs High School Principal Cheryl Henry learned of the sexual misconduct allegations from a student tipster. The anonymous source told Henry that the alleged victim was Schiffer’s former student. The principal turned this information over to the school district’s police force. While under investigation, they placed Schiffer on administrative leave. At the time, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD released a statement acknowledging that when officials learned of the “alleged actions of the staff member,” she was immediately removed from the campus. The district stated they would “continue to protect our students and not tolerate relationships of an appropriate nature.”
Court documents revealed that Schiffer and the student rendezvoused at an area Chick-fil-A restaurant. Later, the pair had sex at a friend’s apartment. In a second meeting, the documents stated she picked up the student in a park where they drove around smoking marijuana, according to the Houston Chronicle. Then, Schiffer pulled over on a neighborhood street where she and the teen kissed and had sexual intercourse.
Reportedly, when investigators interviewed Schiffer and the then 15-year-old male student, they both admitted to these alleged sexual activities. In late November, Schiffer originally was charged with having an improper relationship between an educator and a student and the sexual assault of a child, according to KPRC. She was told not to have any contact with anyone under the age of 18 years old. Bail was set at $30,000. She bonded out shortly thereafter.
Schiffer will next appear in a Harris County district court in August for sentencing. She may face up to 20 years in prison.
The vexing reality of Texas teachers who solicit sex and/or become romantically involved with their students led state lawmakers to pass legislation in 2017 to deter this abhorrent behavior. The state began tracking such incidences during the 2008-09 school year, opening 123 cases of sexual misconduct with students. This rose exponentially each year resulting in an all-time high of 302 cases in 2016-17.
The subsequent crackdown law, Senate Bill 7 (SB7), closed numerous loopholes and imposed stiffer penalties on education professionals convicted of sexual misconduct with students. Under the law, convictions result in the loss of teaching credentials and pensions. Additionally, the law holds administrators to account with jail time and fines if they fail to report suspected cases.
In February, Breitbart Texas reported that Texas Governor Greg Abbott proposed a “do-not-hire” registry for public and charter school employees and/or education professionals “convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for improper relationships with students” as another tool to end these unfortunate predatory situations.
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