Creepy teachers in Texas be warned: Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law a bill intended to crack down on inappropriate teacher-student relationships, hoping to put an end to the rise in such relationships over the past several years.
Under the new law, principals or superintendents who fail to report inappropriate student-teacher relationships to the State Board for Educator Certification can be fined up to $10,000 or can face a state jail felony.
"Today, by signing this law, we're saying no more are we going to allow that to happen," Abbott said before signing the bill. "Texas is going to impose real and stiff consequences for any teacher who dares have any inappropriate relationship with his or her students."
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Prosecutors who had testified at the Legislature told lawmakers that the rise in student-teacher relationships over the past eight years or so has been due largely to the rise in social media. Last year alone, the Texas Education Agency investigated 222 inappropriate relationships. But lawmakers and some educators have feared that plenty of creepy teachers are not investigated because principals or other administrators prefer to just let the teachers go without reporting them to state agencies. Which then allows the teachers to keep their teaching licenses and just move on to the next school district and find another young person to prey on — a phenomenon called "passing the trash."
The steep penalties for ignoring bad teachers — or any school employee — are intended to quell that reporting problem. Schools are also now required to develop "electronic communication policies" to address inappropriate texting or communication on Facebook or Snapchat, for example.
“Parents should be confident that our schools are places of learning and trust for all students," said TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. "When violations of that trust occur, there should be consequences. Senate Bill 7 provides the Texas Education Agency, law enforcement and local school districts with additional tools to continue our work in combating educator misconduct.”
In the Houston area, recent inappropriate relationships include that of former Aldine ISD teacher Alexandra Vera and her 13-year-old middle school student, who allegedly impregnated her and led her to get an abortion; and that of former Houston IT worker Mauricio Mendoza and a 13-year-old middle school student — whom he allegedly impregnated after they had sex in the library. Vera pleaded guilty to continuous sexual abuse of a child and was sentenced to ten years in prison in January. Mendoza is currently charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.