Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student
Whereas relationships between teachers and students were once largely limited to interactions during classes or on school premises, the advent of social media has increased the availability of teachers and the avenues of communication for students to reach them. When parents become concerned about the frequency of their children’s online conversations with teachers or the content of them, educators can find themselves being investigated or facing discipline for alleged misconduct.
States typically prosecute adult offenders who have allegedly had sexual relationships with minors under their statutory rape laws, but Texas also enacted an improper relationship statute in 2003 that made it a felony offense for school employees to engage in sexual contact with any of that school’s students. In 2011, the law was amended to include students who attended any school in the employee’s district, but the statute still applies to all students—even those who are 18 years of age or older.
Lawyer for Improper Educator-Student Relationship in Houston, TX
Do you think that you might be under investigation or were you already arrested for an alleged improper relationship with a student? Do not make any kind of statement about your case without legal counsel. Horak Law can fight to achieve the most favorable outcome and prevent lasting damage to your academic career.
Matt Horak is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston who aggressively defends clients accused of sex-related crimes in Spring, The Woodlands, Galveston, Missouri City, Pasadena, Sugar Land, Conroe, League City, Pearland, Richmond-Rosenberg, and several surrounding areas. He can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call our firm locally at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Harris County Improper Relationship Between Educators and Students Information Center
- How does state law define an improper relationship?
- Do alleged offenders have any defenses in these cases?
- Where can I learn more about student-educator relationships in Texas?
Texas Penal Code § 21.12 makes it a second-degree felony punishable by a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 for an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school to do any of the following:
- Engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works;
- Hold a certificate or permit issued by the State Board for Educator Certification or be required to be licensed by a state agency under the Texas Education Code and engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:
- enrolled in a public primary or secondary school in the same school district as the school at which the employee works; or
- a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity and the employee provides education services to those participants; or
- Engage in online solicitation of a minor with a person the employee knows is a person enrolled in a public primary or secondary school in the same school district as the school at which the employee works, or a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity and the employee provides education services to those participants.
Many school employees can find themselves being accused of having improper relationships with students when there was no criminal intent and no sexual contact of any kind involved. When there is no evidence of a sexual relationship, it can be very difficult for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction.
In some cases, school employees may not be able to be prosecuted for sexual relationships—possibly between two consenting adults—that were not technically considered illegal conduct. Alleged offenders may be able to utilize one of two affirmative defenses established under Texas Penal Code § 21.12(b-1):
- The alleged offender was the spouse of the enrolled student at the time of the alleged offense; or
- The alleged offender was not more than three years older than the enrolled person and, at the time of the offense, the alleged offender and the enrolled person were in a relationship that began before the alleged offender's employment at a public or private primary or secondary school.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) — TEA is the state agency that oversees primary and secondary public education. On this website, you can find information about the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), which is responsible for disciplining educators for misconduct. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions about educator discipline and superintendent reporting of educator misconduct.
A Closer Look at the Texas High School Student-Teacher Sex Epidemic — Texas Monthly magazine published this article on February 4, 2015, examining illegal teacher-student sexual incidents. The article notes some of the issues with the improper relationship law because of its “potential for overreach.” The article notes that at the time of publication, Texas Tribune data showed more people were imprisoned for improper relationship charges than the number of people incarcerated for criminally negligent homicide, disarming a police officer, or injury to the elderly.
Horak Law | Houston Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student Lawyer
If you were arrested or believe that you could be under investigation for an alleged improper relationship with a student in the same school district for which you work, it is in your best interest to immediately seek legal representation. Horak Law aggressively defends clients in communities throughout Brazoria County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Liberty County, and Waller County.
Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Horak is a former Assistant District Attorney for Harris County who is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Call our firm locally at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 or fill out an online contact form right now to take advantage of a free initial consultation that will let our lawyer review your case and help you understand all of your legal options.