What is an Improper Relationship Between an Educator and a Student in Texas?
In the simplest terms, Texas law prohibits a teacher from having sexual contact with a student. Notice that Penal Code Section 21.12 (a) says this offense can be charged against any employee, from a janitor to a superintendent. The offense of Improper Relationship between Educator and Student is a second degree felony in Texas.
What is Sexual Contact?
“Sexual contact” means any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
Improper Relationship between a Teacher and Student in Texas
Allegations of an improper relationship between educator and student continue to make the news regularly. Our attorneys have defended teachers and other school employees against such allegations in a number of counties throughout North Texas. The allegations can be devastating, but with the right approach, these legal problems can be resolved through a proactive and thorough defense team.
Texas law prohibits sexual contact between a teacher, educator, or any employee of a public or private primary or secondary school and a student. The offense is codified under Penal Code Section 21.12 as “Improper Relationship between Educator and Student.” Our attorneys have represented teachers across North Texas against these charges.
Improper relationship between educator and student charges are particularly challenging in many ways:
- The charges are often highly publicized, regardless of the merits of the accusation.
- The media attention often forces District Attorney’s Offices to take harsher positions than they otherwise might.
- The employer will certainly terminate the employment agreement.
- The attention may result in members of the media seeking to obtain statements from or pictures of the accused.
Fortunately, our attorneys are experienced in handling these matters head-on. So far, we have been able to avoid a conviction and prison time for our clients accused of this offense. However, every case is different and those outcomes depended upon our clients following our advice to the last letter. Looking at Texas as a whole, the Texas Tribune reported most of the individuals incarcerated on this charge were sentenced in the 10 to 20 year range.
Potential Defenses for Improper Student-Educator Conduct
Our team of former prosecutors includes chiefs of Special Victim’s Units, including the Crimes Against Children Unit. We have been prosecutors at both the state and federal levels. The sum total of our experience means there is not an allegation that can be made against you that we are not prepared for. We know how prosecutors will build their case against you, so we know how to best protect you. We are also adept at identifying and overcoming false allegations and preparing a meticulous defense case.
While public opinion quickly jumps to a conclusion not favorable to the accused, a diligent defense can, in many cases, overcome or force a reduction in the charged conduct. These cases are unique because they can involve of-age (18-year-old) alleged victims, unlike most other accusations of a sexual nature involving teenagers.
Statistics Regarding Student-Teacher Interactions
The Texas Education Agency reports that allegations of improper teacher-student relationships, also known as improper educator-student relationships, have continued to rise. During the 2017-2018 school year, 429 cases were opened against educators – about a 42 percent increase from the prior year. Compare that to 2015, when the Texas Education Agency investigated 188 improper relationships, followed by 222 the following year.
Officials believe the increase is due, in part, to a change in the law that took affect in 2017, which expanded reporting requirements and subjected superintendents and principals who failed to report improper conduct to criminal charges. (Learn about the 2017 updates to the law.)
Improper Relationships in the Media
These offenses frequently make headlines. Because they garner a great deal of public attention, they are taken very seriously by prosecutors. Individuals accused of offenses are generally fired or suspended indefinitely. There may be collateral CPS investigations.
It is important that educators contact an attorney immediately if they have reason to believe they are under investigation, or certainly if they have been arrested. While we hope to keep allegations out of the media, our firm is uniquely positioned to manage media contact while remaining in the bounds of a lawyer’s ethical obligations. Call us at (817) 203-2220.
Will I have to register as a sex offender?
Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student is presently not one of the offenses for which sex offender registration is required in Texas at this time. However, attempts have been by made to change this. Be sure to check with your attorney to find out when the last time Code of Criminal Procedure 62.001 was amended.
It’s also important to note that, while improper relationship is not a registerable offense at the moment, other charges that often become companion cases such as aggravated sexual assault or online solicitation of a minor do have registration requirements. Learn more about sex offender registration in Texas.
What are the potential punishments?
Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student is a second-degree felony in Texas. The punishment range is 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
What is the statute of limitations in Fort Worth?
The statute of limitations for Improper Relationship between Educator and Student is three years.
Defending Against Allegations of an Improper Student-Teacher Relationship
If you are facing allegations of an improper relationship between an educator and a student in Fort Worth, reach out to our firm today to discuss your legal rights and options. We can help. Call today for a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.