Abbott calls for crackdown on sexual misconduct, crimes


Highlights

Abbott unveils policies to crack down on sex crimes, harassment and teacher misconduct with students.

Proposals include a ‘do not hire’ list for school employees convicted of inappropriate student relationships.

Responding to growing reports of sexual misconduct raised by the #MeToo movement, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday unveiled a series of proposals that included allowing the Texas Rangers to investigate harassment claims against state officials and creating a “do not hire” list for school employees convicted of inappropriate student relationships.

The policy proposals, announced during a campaign event in Houston, included a crackdown on human trafficking, harsher penalties for sex crimes and support for additional money to address a chronic backlog in testing of rape evidence kits.

“We have a duty to keep Texas safe and do everything we can to prevent these terrible crimes from being inflicted on any Texan,” Abbott said.

READ: Andrew White loans campaign $1 million, seeks to reshape race

His proposals, many of which would require approval by the Legislature, included:

• Requiring jail time and registration as a sex offender for those convicted of promoting or compelling prostitution.

• Allowing prostitution convictions to be removed from the record of those who were forced to engage in prostitution.

• Raising the penalties for the promotion of child pornography, kidnapping a child and sexual performance by a child.

• Seeking $14 million in the 2019-20 budget to help clear the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits. Abbott also committed $1 million from his office’s criminal justice division to kick-start the testing.

• Establishing a grant program through the governor’s office to help counties pay for GPS monitoring of those involved in domestic violence, sex offender and human trafficking cases.

• Finding $22 million to create a Department of Public Safety unit devoted to investigating human trafficking.

Chris Kaiser, director of public policy for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, said his advocacy organization looked forward to working with Abbott on the proposals over the coming year.

“We’re grateful for Gov. Abbott’s strong commitment to eliminating sexual assault, and his plan to improve criminal law enforcement is a step in the right direction,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser challenged the governor to address the majority of Texas assault survivors who do not report the crime to law enforcement. They “also need bold investments in the support and advocacy services that help them stay in school, keep their jobs and stay safe,” he said.

Two leading candidates in the Democratic primary for governor said Abbott’s proposals were late.

“During Greg Abbott’s nearly two decades in politics, human trafficking has become a serious problem. Now, after we’re in crisis mode, he rolls out a plan?” Houston businessman Andrew White said. “Texas can do better.”

Lupe Valdez, a former Dallas County sheriff, welcomed Abbott’s “initial steps and recognition that something must be done. I sincerely hope all of Texas’ elected leadership takes this beyond campaign season press releases.”

Abbott’s school safety proposals would create a do-not-hire list of employees convicted of inappropriate student relationships that would be maintained by the State Board for Educator Certification. Those on the list would be barred from jobs that have contact with students — including teachers, librarians, aides, counselors and nurses — in public, private and charter schools.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

The registry, which would include teachers given deferred adjudication, was proposed last year by state Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, whose bill failed largely because of its $1.8 million cost.

One of the goals, Dale said Tuesday, was to include noncertified teachers and employees to make sure they also did not fall through the cracks.

“We’re glad to take another crack at it,” Dale said. “I wanted to make sure that a registry was available so that all schools — both public and private — could use it to vet potential employees. Unfortunately, like many things in the Legislature, cost was an issue.”

Dale proposed the registry after the American-Statesman, using teacher certification data from the Texas Education Agency, created a first-of-its-kind searchable database of teachers who lost their licenses after being accused of having an improper relationship with a student.

The Statesman found that nearly 60 percent of teachers who were charged with student misconduct were granted deferred adjudication, a form of probation that allows the charge to be dismissed after the terms of the probation are fulfilled.

The number of improper teacher-student relationships grew for the ninth consecutive year in 2017. In the one-year period that ended Sept. 1, the Texas Education Agency opened 302 cases against public school teachers who had been accused of having improper relationships with students, a 36 percent increase from the year before.

In his proposal, Abbott called on the Legislature to give the educator certification board the power to temporarily suspend the teaching certificates of those charged with a sex-related or violent crime.

Additional material from staff writer Jonathan Tilove.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Police: Student was punched, spat on before dorm stabbing
Police: Student was punched, spat on before dorm stabbing

A Georgia State University student walked up to another student, spat on him and punched him before the suspect stabbed him multiple times in a university dorm, the school’s police chief said Thursday. University and Atlanta police responded to a call about the fight Tuesday, GSU police chief Joe Spillane said. Nakia Roach was found in the the...
Some Ohio school districts arm staff, but don't tell public 
Some Ohio school districts arm staff, but don't tell public 

Several school districts in Ohio have armed staff and teachers in an effort to prevent school shootings, but some of those districts have not told parents, students and taxpayers about the firearms in their buildings. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said that if one of the victims, a football coach, in last week’s Florida school...
NC woman wins $1 million scratch-off jackpot
NC woman wins $1 million scratch-off jackpot

Winner, winner, before that chicken dinner. A North Carolina woman is $1 million richer after buying a scratch-off ticket while purchasing her meal, WRAL reported. Sayanna Bragg bought a dozen chicken wings and a soft drink at a Durham convenience store and decided to purchase a Million Dollar Fever scratch-off ticket.  When she got to her...
Georgia dad, daughter sing their way to more Girl Scout cookie sales
Georgia dad, daughter sing their way to more Girl Scout cookie sales

Who knew Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” would make good Girl Scout cookie-selling music? A father and daughter team from Georgia created a viral video in which they ride in the car while subbing out the song’s original lyrics to push Girl Scout cookies. The song is performed by Grammy-winning Georgia artist Childish Gambino...
Lawsuit accuses Taylor facility of forcing immigrant detainees to work for little or no pay
Lawsuit accuses Taylor facility of forcing immigrant detainees to work for little or no pay

A class action lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday argues that a company that manages immigrant detention centers — including the T. Don Hutto Center in Taylor — is violating the federal Trafficking Victims and Protection Act by forcing labor on those in the center. Martha Gonzalez — a Harris County resident who was formerly detained...
More Stories