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The following was included in TCTA's 2017-18 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2017 but is subject to change. The information below is for information purposes only, and is not intended to substitute for advice from an attorney.
Teachers are perceived as role models in the community, and the laws and regulations that mandate appropriate standards of conduct reflect that expectation. Failure to comply with these standards can lead to adverse employment action, certification sanctions and criminal consequences. During the 2017 legislative session, Senate Bill 7 was passed in an effort to address educator misconduct and improper relationships between educators and students.
Sexual relationships with students
Sexual contact or indecent exposure with a minor is a felony that requires the perpetrator to register as a sex offender. It also is a felony for any school district employee to engage in a sexual relationship with a student, even if that student is of the legal age of consent. This prohibition includes students enrolled in schools where the teacher is not employed. Additionally, SB 7 provides that a person who is a member of the Teacher Retirement System and is convicted of certain felonies that involve sexual abuse of a student or minor will be ineligible to receive a service retirement annuity from the retirement system.
A school district must complete an investigation into allegations of educator misconduct, even if the educator resigns from the school district. SB 7 implements a new requirement that school districts must notify the parent or guardian of a student with whom an educator allegedly engaged in an improper relationship, regardless of whether the educator resigned or was terminated. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act prohibits school employees from aiding another school employee in obtaining a new job if there is probable cause to believe there has been sexual misconduct with a minor or student. Legislation adopted in 2017 requires applicants for many school district positions to submit a pre-employment affidavit disclosing a charge, adjudication or conviction based on an inappropriate relationship with a minor.
If an individual is found to have engaged in sexual conduct or a romantic relationship with a student or minor, regardless of age or enrollment status in the district, the State Board for Educator Certification will permanently revoke that educator’s teaching certificate.
Solicitation of a romantic relationship
Solicitation of a sexual or romantic relationship with a student also can result in adverse employment action and certificate sanctions, even if the relationship is not ultimately consummated.
SB 7 expands the criminal prohibition of online solicitation of a minor to include communications between employees at a school and a student. A person commits this offense if they knowingly solicit a minor to meet with another person with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact with the person. Conviction of online solicitation of a minor is a felony.
SBEC may sanction the teaching certificate of an individual who has engaged in deliberate or repeated acts that can be reasonably interpreted as soliciting a sexual or romantic relationship. Prohibited acts include, but are not limited to:
- Communications tending to show that the educator solicited a romantic relationship with the student;
- Making inappropriate comments about a student’s body;
- Making sexually demeaning comments to a student;
- Making comments about a student’s potential sexual performance;
- Requesting details of a student’s sexual history;
- Requesting a date;
- Engaging in conversations regarding the sexual problems, preferences or fantasies of either party;
- Inappropriate hugging, kissing or excessive touching;
- Suggesting that a romantic relationship is desired after the student graduates, including post-graduation plans for dating or marriage; and
- Providing the student with drugs or alcohol.
Educators should take care to avoid situations in which professional boundaries become poorly defined. Inviting students to your home, meeting them for social activities that are not school-sponsored, or developing personal relationships with them can create the perception of inappropriate conduct. Avoid such situations with students in the absence of previously existing social relationships with them.
Suspected child abuse
An educator who believes that any student or minor may be a victim of sexual abuse is required to make a report to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services within 48 hours of becoming aware of the possibility of the abuse. This responsibility may not be delegated to someone else, and failure to make the required report is a criminal offense. For more information, click here.
Online Contact With Students
Sexting Between Students
Tips for New Teachers
Texting Your Way into Trouble: How to Keep Your Relationships with Students Professional (TCTA members must log in to view this online CPE video for 1.25 hours of CPE credit.)
Navigating the Minefield of Teacher-Student Interaction (TCTA members must log in to view this online CPE video for 1 hour of CPE credit.)