Impact of bill aiming to curb teacher-student relationships in TX

Posted at 1:59 PM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:48-04

A bill that aims to curb improper relationships between students and teachers may soon become law in Texas.

Senate Bill 7 was sent to the Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for approval after it passed the Texas House and the Texas Senate.

In the 2015-2016 school year, the Texas Education Agency opened 222 cases involving improper relationships between teacher and student. From September 2016 to April 2017, the number of cases was 191.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt (District 7) who introduced the bill said it aims to prevent educators who engage in inappropriate relationships with students from being able to jump from school district to school district without facing any consequences.

“The House and Senate both unanimously passed Senate Bill 7, making clear that this behavior of teachers preying on students for sexual relationships will not be tolerated," Sen. Bettencourt said.

Waco ISD Communications Director Bruce Gietzen said the bill would help with children's safety.

"We applaud legislators actions to do that. Any case of inappropriate relationship between an educator and a student, sexual abuse, physical abuse, we don't condone that in Waco ISD," Gietzen said.

The bill expands the reporting requirements of misconduct to include principals, not just superintendents.

According to Waco ISD and Belton ISD officials, administrators at the campus and district level already do that reporting.

"We have a reporting procedure. I think the bill asks for incidents to be reported immediately within seven days after they occur. We do have a process in place for administrators to notify us when incidents occur so we can investigate," Belton ISD Executive Director of Human Resources Todd Schiller said."We take the safety of our students very seriously."

Gietzen said when there is suspicion of misconduct, employees follow the educator code of ethics report to law enforcement and the Department of Family and Protective Services within 48 hours of when they became suspicious that something happened to a child. They also report it to the administration. If an employee is charged with an offense, they have to report it to the administration within three days of being charged.

Principals or superintendents who don't report these incidents or fail to report them in a specific time frame would face jail time and up to $10,000.

Applicants for a teaching position would have to disclose whether the applicant has ever been charged, adjudicated or convicted of an inappropriate relationship.

In addition, there would be an automatic revocation of teaching certificate if offender receives deferred adjudication for an educator misconduct offense or any offense that would require them to register as sex offender.

“SB 7 recognizes the scourge of inappropriate teacher-student relationships and is a very big step forward to stamping them out!" Sen. Bettencourt said.

The bill would also require teachers to take a class to understand the appropriate relationships, boundaries, and communication between teachers and students. According to Waco ISD and Belton ISD, their teachers learn about this and how to report cases, as part of their training.

If Gov. Abbott approves the bill, it would go into effect in September.

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