A Growing Concern About Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships

Teachers are crucial in young people’s lives and should avoid anything that looks improper. Certain states stipulate that educators and students are not allowed to be friends on Facebook. A good connection between a teacher and a student can make a young person interested in learning, but a bad one can affect the student for a long time.

In Texas, students and teachers must act correctly and keep things educational. It’s against the law in Texas for a teacher to have a romantic relationship with a student. If a student and teacher have an improper relationship, they could face legal consequences, like going to jail and paying fines. Even if both people agree, any improper sexual activity between a teacher and a student is against the law.

Sometimes, teachers get accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor high school student. If that happens, it’s important to know how to protect yourself.

What are Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships in Texas Law?

According to Texas Penal Code Section 21.12, it is illegal for any school employee, including custodians and cafeteria employees, to have any sexual relationship with a pupil, regardless of age. This law applies to all students in the same school district, not just the teachers. If a teacher is accused under this statute, they may also face additional sex crimes involving children, such as indecency with a child or child pornography, which can result in worse consequences, such as longer prison sentences and the necessity to register as a sex offender.

Examples of Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships

Some individuals may be perplexed by the term “improper.” For some, any interaction between a teacher and a student, even at school events, might seem wrong, while others may not see it that way.

In Texas, the law defines a relationship as ‘improper’ if any of the following things happen between a student and a teacher at a public or private school:

  1. Engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviation between the teacher and the student.
  2. Inappropriate online communication with the student, like sending inappropriate text messages or emails.
  3. ‘Grooming,’ which means trying to build a relationship with a student, whether online or in person, for inappropriate purposes.

Legal Consequences of Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships

When a teacher or school staff member has a sexual relationship with a student from their school or district, they can face criminal charges. If someone is convicted of having a sexual relationship with a student, they could go to a Texas prison for as long as 20 years and might have to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Additional Actions that Texas Educators Could Face

In addition to legal consequences, teachers who are convicted can face professional repercussions. The State Board for Educator Certification, which handles teaching licenses, can take action against educators found guilty of crimes involving students. This means they can cancel or suspend a teacher’s license due to such a conviction.

The board’s authority to revoke a teacher’s license isn’t limited to sexual offenses; it also extends to crimes related to bad behavior or damaging school property. Engaging in any of these violations may lead to sanctions from the board.

Controversy Regarding the Law

While most states handle inappropriate relationships between teachers and students with statutory rape laws, Texas has had its own law since 2003. Some find it controversial because it can lead to charges for a teacher dating a student in the same district, but not in different districts.

Defending Accusations: Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student

There are ways to defend against charges of improper conduct with a student and other child sex crimes, according to Texas law. Two defenses for sexual misconduct with an underage student are:

  • If the person was the spouse of the enrolled student at the time.
  • If the person was only up to three years older than the student at the time of the offense and they were in a pre-existing relationship before the person started working at the school.

These defenses are rare and hard to prove. If you’re facing such a charge, it’s best to consult a sex crime lawyer who can provide a strong legal defense.

Legal Proceedings 

Any complaints about a teacher from students or parents must be investigated by the school. This is necessary, even if the complaints don’t seem fair. Sometimes the police or child protective services are called in, and the news reports on it.

Teachers usually anticipate that the school will assist them throughout the inquiry, but this is not always the case. Teachers are powerless to intervene during an inquiry. If you hear a student or parent complaining about you, follow these steps:

  • You can have someone accompany you while they ask you questions, but you must request it.
  • Get advice from your teaching group or a lawyer before answering a lot of questions or writing anything.
  • If the allegation concerns a crime or the police are present, request that your lawyer accompany you during interrogation.
  • Do not discuss it with anybody other than your instructor group or a lawyer.