Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, is fed up with Texas teachers preying on students.
Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, is fed up with Texas teachers preying on students.
Courtesy Texas Legislature

Texas Senate Cracks Down on Teacher-Student Predator Relationships

Lawmakers in Austin are fed up with an unending string of arrests of Texas teachers accused of preying on their students.

The Texas Senate on Thursday unanimously adopted SB 7, which would punish school administrators for failing to report teachers and staff who engage in inappropriate relationships with students.

Principals and superintendents who run afoul of the law would face a class A misdemeanor, or a felony if the administrator intentionally chose not to inform the Texas Education Agency of a predator teacher. Previously, only superintendents could be punished — which advocates of the bill said was impractical, since principals have far more contact with teachers than superintendents do.

The bill also would strip pensions from teachers convicted of sex crimes.

Senator Paul Bettencourt, a Republican from Houston, wrote the bill in response to what he called “a statewide epidemic” of predator teachers.

“Inappropriate relationships between students and educators must be stamped out, period,” Bettencourt said in a statement after the bill was passed. “We’re talking about the health and safety of our kids. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye or sweep these issues under the rug. Students are irrevocably changed by these improprieties.”

Houston ISD, the largest district in Texas, has been plagued with teacher sex scandals in recent years.

Last year, a Sharpstown teacher was charged with two felonies related to sex acts involving superhero role-play with a 17-year-old student. In November, a kindergarten teacher at Berry Elementary was accused of fondling a female student.

Just this week, a Wisdom High School teacher was arrested on charges of molesting a special needs student while she was in his classroom.

Teachers in Katy and Aldine also faced sex charges in recent years.

In 2016, the TEA launched 222 investigations into teachers suspected of conducting inappropriate relationships with students, the Texas Tribune reported. We reported back in 2014 that the TEA was aware of an uptick in reported inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

Finally, Texas legislators have decided that a change in state law is needed to get predator teachers out of the public school system.

The Texas House is working on a similar bill, and a version of the two is likely to end up on Governor Greg Abbott's desk this session.

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