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Improper Relationships Between Teachers and Students

By Benson Varghese

Last Updated: August 24th, 2020
Published on: May 23rd, 2017

What Does the Law Say about Improper Relationships Between Teachers and Students?

Improper relationships between teachers and students are criminalized under Texas law, regardless of the student’s age. Under Texas Penal Code 21.12, it is a crime for a public or private school employee to have any sexual contact or sexual intercourse with someone enrolled in public or private school.  The offense is called improper relationship between an educator and student. The law was expanded in 2017, further penalizing inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

How did Senate Bill 7 Change the Law Regarding Improper Relationships between Teachers and Students?

On May 16, 2017, Senate Bill 7 was passed by both the Texas Senate and House, adding new criminal and administrative penalties for improper educator-student relationships. The bill had unanimous support in both the House and Senate and was sponsored by a total of 78 legislators.

SB 7 expanded the criminal charges available to prosecutors for improper relationships; automatically revoked teaching licenses for educators convicted of most sex offenses; mandated that principals report teacher misconduct to the Texas Education Agency (TEA); and disqualified certain offenders from receiving their pensions. The author of the bill, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, explained the Senate Bill 7’s purpose:

“This behavior of teachers preying on students for sexual relationships will not be tolerated. SB 7 gives the TEA more tools to pursue and investigate these cases to protect the integrity of the teaching profession and, more importantly, protect the students in all of the schools in Texas.”

Here’s how Senate Bill 7 Changed Improper Relationships between Teacher and Student Laws:

  • Before SB 7, it was crime for school employees to have sexual contact with a student that is enrolled “in the same school district as the school at which the employee works.” SB 7 removed that language and instead prohibits employees from sexual contact with students regardless of whether the student is in the same school district.
  • Under SB 7, the public retirement system “shall suspend payments of an annuity to a person” that has been convicted of improper relationship between educator and student. In other words, school employees convicted of this crime will lose their pensions. However, the full pension amount would still be available to an innocent spouse.
  • SB 7 requires the State Board for Educator Certification to revoke teaching licenses of any teacher convicted of any felony sex offense or given deferred adjudication of guilt. The board may also revoke the license of any person that helps a sex offender obtain employment at a school.
  • Prospective school employees must disclose criminal misconduct in a pre-employment affidavit.
  • Principals and superintendents must report teacher misconduct to the TEA. A failure to report is an offense that can lead to fines, jail time, and license revocation.
  • School districts must create written policies governing all electronic communications between employees and students.

It is important to note that SB 7 applies to any employee of a public or private school – not just to teachers. SB 7 took effect on September 1, 2017. The full text of SB 7 can be found here.

Accused of Having an Improper Relationship with a Student? Contact Us

If you or a loved one is facing a charge of an Improper Relationship between an Educator and Student, it is essential to contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. This accusation will impact every aspect of your life, including your career, your family and your reputation. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling all aspects of sex allegations, including those involving students and teachers. We will handle your case with the sensitivity and discretion it deserves. Call today for a confidential and complimentary strategy session.