Now more than ever, social media and technological advances allow students to have access to their teachers after school. Educators and students are expected to maintain an academic relationship with one another, but many teachers struggle because they’re close with their students. Peers, parents and other teachers could misconstrue this as an inappropriate sexual relationship.
Texas has implemented harsh laws for improper relationships with a student. You could be burdened with felony charges, time in prison and possibly loss your teaching license. If you’re being investigated for having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student, it’s imperative you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
TX Attorney for Improper Relations with Students
A simple accusation of having sexual contact with students can devastate your whole career. In addition, the charge is difficult to defend. Thankfully, the attorneys at Flood Lewis & Associates, Inc. have experience in sexual offenses including allegations of inappropriate relationships with students. We can guide you through this legal process to help you obtain the best possible outcome for your case.
Call us now at (713) 224-5529 to schedule a free consultation. Flood Lewis & Associates, Inc. represents people throughout the greater Houston metropolitan area including Uptown, Greenspoint, River Oaks and Magnolia Park.
Overview of Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student
- What is the Law on Student and Teacher Relationships?
- Could I Lose My License for Improper Relationship Charges?
- Defenses for Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships
- Signs That You Have an Inappropriate Relationship with a Student
- Additional Resources
What is the Law on Student and Teacher Relationships?
Teachers in Texas are held to a high standard and expected to practice impartiality with their students. There are certain acts prohibited by teachers and other school employees. All students in the classroom should be treated fairly and respectfully. The Texas Penal Code § 21.12 states it’s illegal for employees of a school to do any of the following:
- Have sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a student enrolled in the same school;
- Be certified by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and engage in sexual contact or intercourse with a student who is in the same school district as the educator;
- Have a certification from SBEC and have a sexual relationship with a student participant in an educational activity sponsored by the same district or school;
- Commit online solicitation of a minor with a student enrolled in the same school where the employee works, in the same school district as the employee or at an educational activity where the student is a participant.
The term “sexual contact” is defined under Texas law as any provocative touching of the breast, anus or genitals of another person. Improper relationship with a student could result in a second-degree felony, which is punishable by:
- Up to 20 years in prison; and
- A possible fine of up to $10,000
Will I Lose My Teaching License for Improper Relationship Charges?
As an educator, you’re probably aware of how the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) manages disciplinary action. The SBEC follows the Texas Administrative Code when disciplining their licensees. Rule §249.14 states the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has the right to investigate any information regarding improper conduct by a teacher, applicant or examinee.
Texas Administrative Code also states the SBEC is allowed to take disciplinary action if there is evidence of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student. If disciplinary action is granted, SBEC could do one or more of the following:
- Restrict the issuance, holding or renewal of your certificate;
- Issue a non-inscribed or inscribed reprimand;
- Suspend your certificate for a set term;
- Probate your certificate for a set term;
- Impose additional conditions or restrictions on your license;
- Require you to engage in professional development; or
- Cancel or revoke your license entirely
You do have options if you want to retain your certificate. Texas Administrative Code grants you have the right to a disciplinary action hearing. During this hearing, you can bring legal representation, present compelling evidence and fight for your career.
Defenses for Improper Teacher-Student Relationships
Defending charges of inappropriate relations with a student can be difficult. If there is a long-history of messaging between the two, it can be even more challenging. However, this doesn’t mean you’re unable to obtain a proper defense for your charges.
You can hire an criminal defense attorney, which will significantly increase your chances of having your charges reduced or dismissed. Your lawyer could utilize one of the affirmative defenses available under Texas Penal Code § 21.12(b-1), which include:
- You were a spouse of the enrolled person at the time of the offense; or
- You are no more than three years older than the enrolled student and you were both in a relationship before the school hired you
If none of these apply to you, don’t worry. Your attorney can implement other defenses such as lack of evidence or improper search and seizure by law enforcement.
Signs of Inappropriate Student Teacher Relationships
Teaching is a unique profession because it allows you to create meaningful relationships with students every year. Skilled teachers are usually well-liked among the student body, which can lead to problems. While it’s important you continue to encourage your students, it’s also imperative you protect yourself.
Listed below are some signs you’re entering an inappropriate relationship with a student.
- Messaging a student about topics other than school;
- Being friends with students on Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms;
- Allowing a student to stay in your classroom for long periods after school;
- Talking on the phone with a student about topics other than school;
- Meeting a student outside of school for a non-educational reason;
- Not maintaining contact with a student’s parents if you meet outside of school;
- Writing letters, giving gifts or any other inappropriate non-educational exchanges;
- Rumors around the school about you and the student; or
- The student exhibits uninitiated provocative behavior towards you
Texas Laws About Improper Relations with Students – Visit the official website of the Texas Penal Code to learn more about the law regarding improper relationships with students. Access the statute to read the charge specifics, the privacy of the student involved and other related offenses.
SBEC Rules – Visit the official website of the Texas Administrative Code to learn more about how SBEC imposes disciplinary action. Access the site to learn more about possible punishments, other prohibited acts and how hearings work.
Lawyer for Improper Relations with Students in Harris County, Texas
If you or someone you know has been charged with having a sexual relationship with a student, it’s crucial for you to gain legal representation. Charges for improper relationship with a student charge can result in both criminal and administrative penalties. You will need a strong defense to protect your freedom and career.
Contact Flood Lewis & Associates, Inc. today. Call (713) 224-5529 to schedule a free consultation. We accept clients throughout the greater Harris County area including Bellaire, Tomball, West University Place and Pasadena.
This article was last updated on March 7th, 2019.