As part of Texas Safe Schools Week (Oct. 19-25), the Texas Education Agency (TEA) today advised that everyone in education – including students, parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and staff – plays a critical role in identifying and reporting improper educator-student relationships.
Local school district superintendents are statutorily required to report such incidences to TEA and local law enforcement agencies (in those cases where potential criminal charges are involved). Any report of an inappropriate relationship should be taken seriously, handled appropriately at the local level, and reported to TEA to assure proper sanctions and safeguards can be taken for the protection of students in all Texas districts.
“Anyone reporting such an incident to local school administrators – especially students and parents – must be confident that their report will be investigated fully and impartially,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “Everyone who works with students in schools across our state holds a position of trust that should never be called into question.”
TEA investigates reports of inappropriate educator-student relationships, working with school district officials as well as local law enforcement. Over the past three school years, the number of investigations opened by TEA staff specifically on allegations of inappropriate relationships has increased, from 141 in 2009-10 to 179 in 2013-14. Under the state penal code, a school district employee commits a second-degree felony if he or she engages in sexual contact with a student who is not their spouse, even if that student is 18 years of age.
A person who serves as the superintendent of a school district or the director of an open-enrollment charter school, private school or regional education service center is required by law to promptly notify TEA or the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) in writing of any educator misconduct that results in termination or resignation.
If a termination or resignation is based on an act of misconduct, a superintendent must report the situation to TEA within seven days. A settlement with a departing employee does not alter the superintendent’s responsibility to report the information. A superintendent who fails to report the required information within the statutorily-required seven days faces possible sanctions including reprimand, suspension or revocation of the superintendent’s certificate.
Texas Safe Schools Week is held annually in conjunction with the national America’s Safe Schools Week. To read the Governor’s Safe School Week proclamation, the joint Texas Education Agency-Texas School Safety Center proclamation or to learn more about Texas Safe Schools Week topics, visit the Texas Education Agency website at www.tea.state.tx.us or the Texas School Safety Center website at http://txssc.txstate.edu/.