Senate passes bill to curb improper teacher-student relationships


The state Senate unanimously approved sweeping reforms on Wednesday intended to crack down on the growing problem of improper relationships between teachers and students.

Among the provisions of Senate Bill 7 filed by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, and co-authored by the rest of the members of the Senate:

  • A teacher would be charged with improper relationship with a student, even if the student attends school outside of the teacher’s school district.
  • A teacher’s teaching license would be automatically revoked if he or she must register as a sex offender or receives a deferred adjudication of guilt.
  • Principals, not just superintendents, would have to report teacher misconduct to the Texas Education Agency.
  • A principal or superintendent who fails to report misconduct would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and failure to report intentionally could lead to a state jail felony.

“It’s an attack on our school kids. The schools and the teachers and the students, especially, are irrevocably changed once a relationship like this occurs,” Bettencourt said.

The bill will now go to the House.

The number of cases of improper relationships between teachers and students in Texas have been on the rise over at least the last eight years. Last year, TEA opened 222 new cases. Between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31, the agency has opened 97 cases, surpassing the number during the same period last year.

An American-Statesman investigation last month found that fewer than half of the hundreds of teachers who lost their licenses after being investigated for an improper relationship with a student were charged with a crime. In cases where no charges occurred, very little information was readily available to the public.

Addressing the issue has been among the Senate’s top priorities this session.

Other provisions of SB 7 include:

  • The pension revocation of a teacher who has been convicted of a certain felony, including improper relationship with a student, sexual assault and continuous sexual abuse of a child.
  • Allowing TEA to subpoena witness testimony.
  • Requiring school districts to implement policies regarding proper teacher-student communications online and over text messages.
  • Revoking the teaching license of an administrator who helps a teacher who had improprieties with a student get a job at another school district; an administrator’s license could also be revoked if he or she should have known about the teacher’s improprieties.
  • TEA could investigate a school district’s accreditation if it does not cooperate with TEA on a teacher investigation.
  • More teacher training on proper boundaries with students.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

WEATHER: Scattered rain, storms possible across Austin today
WEATHER: Scattered rain, storms possible across Austin today

Monday forecast for Austin: Scattered storms are expected across the Austin area today, with a 60 percent chance of rain throughout the day, which will drop to 40 percent this evening, the National Weather Service says. However, once again the worst of the rain will be focused in West Texas, out in the Edwards Plateau. The Austin area is only...
Proposed MoPac settlement terms to become public Tuesday
Proposed MoPac settlement terms to become public Tuesday

Details of a settlement between the MoPac toll project’s government overseer and its tardy contractor should emerge this morning, when the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board is scheduled to discuss the deal in closed session and then vote on it in public. Officials could announce, as well, the opening date of the next section of...
Court backs, for now, Ken Paxton prosecutors in fight over payment
Court backs, for now, Ken Paxton prosecutors in fight over payment

The state’s highest criminal court late Monday temporarily halted a lower-court order that had blocked payments to prosecutors in the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals gave Collin County — which had sued to halt the payments, saying they were based on an excessive $300 rate &mdash...
Sheriff will enforce immigration detentions after SB 4 court ruling
Sheriff will enforce immigration detentions after SB 4 court ruling

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez ordered her office to start honoring all federal immigration detention requests placed on local jail inmates after a federal appeals court ruling Monday allowed parts of Senate Bill 4, the controversial “sanctuary cities” ban, to go into effect. The appellate court’s order essentially undoes Hernandez&rsquo...
Judge to rule on DA’s request to put hold on Rep. Dukes’ felony charges
Judge to rule on DA’s request to put hold on Rep. Dukes’ felony charges

After admitting they were caught off guard by a flip-flopping witness in state Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ corruption case, Travis County prosecutors are asking a judge to grant a trial delay so they can have more time to prove 13 felony charges. The outcome of a hearing Tuesday afternoon will determine whether the district attorney’s office gets...
More Stories