FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/14/2016
REPRESENTATIVE TONY DALE FILES LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS GROWING PROBLEM OF INAPPROPRIATE TEACHER-STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS
(Cedar Park, TX) – Today, State Representative Tony Dale filed HB 218 to address the growing problem of inappropriate teacher-student relationships. “Our students and parents have a valid expectation that they will be educated in a safe environment. The increasing problem of inappropriate teacher-student relationships endangers our students and damages the confidence in our educational system. The era of allowing people who have inappropriate contact or communication with students to move from school district to school district without consequence must end,” said Representative Dale.
Texas has seen cases where, once caught, these teachers resign, move and obtain employment in another school district. In some cases, the reason for their resignation is removed from their personnel file. As a result, when another district conducts their research prior to hiring, the inappropriate relationship is not disclosed to the new district.
Representative Dale said, “Since last session I have been working with parents, administrators and other officials to determine the most comprehensive course of action necessary to correct this problem. Our students deserve better.”
• HB 218 expands criminal liability for teacher-student relationships to include educators who target students in other schools or other school districts. It is currently an offense if an educator has an inappropriate relationship with a student within their district. While relationships with any minor is supposed to be reported, it is not an offense unless both parties are working or teaching in the same district.
• HB 218 expands culpability to include principals as well as, superintendents and directors. Currently, only superintendents and directors have a duty to report under the law.
• HB 218 criminalizes a failure to report inappropriate relationships to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). Under current law there is no criminal penalty for failing to report.
• HB 218 requires the revocation of an educator’s certificate if they are designated as a registered sex offender, regardless of whether they were adjudicated or convicted.
• HB 218 requires school districts to adopt continuing education for teachers about appropriate educator-student relationships, boundaries and communications.
• HB 218 closes a current loophole allowing teachers involved in inappropriate relationships to resign and have the details placed in a campus file, rather than a personnel file. HB 218 grants authority to the SBEC to revoke or suspend the certification of any person that assists a school employee, contractor or agent in obtaining a new job if the individual knew or should have known that the agent engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a student.
• HB 218 expands subpoena power to include testimony related to the investigation, as well as documents related the alleged incident of misconduct.
• HB 218 requires school districts to produce investigation reports to the State Board of Educator Certification. The commissioner of the SBEC will be able to authorize special accreditation investigations when a school district fails to produce to the agency for any reason evidence or an investigation report requested by the agency relating to an educator who is under investigation by the SBEC.
• HB 218 requires that districts adopt and enforce policies regarding teacher-student electronic communications.
“HB 218 increases penalties and close loopholes that allow educators who engage in inappropriate relationships to resign and obtain employment in another district. This bill seeks to allow Texas the tools we need to get rid of teachers who prey on our children. It is time that we fully address this issue and make sure that educators who have inappropriate relations with students not be allowed to teach again,” Dale said.
State Representative Tony Dale is a member of the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee, the House Energy Resources Committee and the Local and Consent Calendars Committee. He represents southwestern Williamson County, Cedar Park, Leander, Brushy Creek, and parts of Austin and Round Rock.