As in prior years, the news media has continued to report on allegations, arrests and convictions of teachers having improper relationships with students. Moreover, the news media has further reported on the failure of public schools to disclose this reason as the basis for a former teacher’s resignation or termination to another public school looking to hire the same teacher. In July 2016, State Representative Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs requested that Governor Abbott designate the practice of “passing the trash” an emergency for the 85thLegislative Session. Read the press release.
In its Legislative Appropriations Request for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, TEA requested an additional $400,000 to employ more investigative staff to address the increase in reports of improper relationships between educators and students. Additionally, State Representatives and State Senators have filed four bills (HB49, HB218, HB333, SB7) captioned:
• “Relating to improper relationships between educators and students; creating a criminal offense and expanding the applicability of an existing offense", and
• "Relating to the prosecution of the offense of improper relationship between educator and student.”
Of particular interest to school boards and superintendents are recent news stories in which state lawmakers have been quoted as saying that they are interested in adopting statutory criminal penalties to address a superintendent’s, and possibly a principal’s, failure to report instances when an educator has had an improper relationship with a student.
As the ongoing reports of improper teacher and student relationships continue to land on the front page and on the five o’clock news, legislators may find themselves increasingly compelled to act where they perceive that public schools have failed to do so, regardless of what the law does or does not require.
Given the media, agency and legislative interest concerning how public schools address, and particularly disclose, improper relationships between educators and students, public schools should likely revisit their existing policies, procedures and practices to ensure that they do not become the poster child of the proposed laws during the upcoming legislative session.
Session opened Tuesday Jan 10th. For more info on legislation, committees, house, and senate visit Texas Legislature Online.