Improper Relationship between Educator and Student
Allegations of an improper relationship between educator and student seem to make the news regularly. Our attorneys have defended teachers and other school employees against such allegations in a number of counties throughout North Texas. The allegations can be devastating, but with the right approach, these legal problems can be resolved through a proactive and thorough defense team.
Texas law prohibits sexual contact between a teacher, educator, or any employee of a public or private primary or secondary school and a student. The offense is codified under Penal Code Section 21.12 as “Improper Relationship between Educator and Student.” Our attorneys have represented teachers across North Texas against these charges.
Improper relationship between educator and student charges are particularly challenging in many ways:
- The charges are often highly publicized, regardless of the merits of the accusation.
- The media attention often forces District Attorney’s Offices to take harsher positions than they otherwise might.
- The employer will certainly terminate the employment agreement.
- The attention may result in members of the media seeking to obtain statements from or pictures of the accused.
Fortunately, our attorneys are experienced in handling these matters head-on. So far, we have been able to avoid a conviction and prison time for our clients accused of this offense. However, every case is different and those outcomes depended upon our clients following our advice to the last letter. Looking at Texas as a whole, the Texas Tribune reported most of the individuals incarcerated on this charge were sentenced in the 10 to 20 year range.
Improper Student Teacher Relationship Defense
Our team of former prosecutors includes chiefs of Special Victim’s Units, including the Crimes Against Children Unit. We have been prosecutors at both the state and federal levels. The sum total of our experience means there is not an allegation that can be made against you that we are not prepared for. We know how prosecutors will build their case against you, so we know how to best protect you. We are also adept at identifying and overcoming false allegations and preparing a meticulous defense case.
While public opinion quickly jumps to a conclusion not favorable to the accused, a diligent defense can, in many cases, overcome or force a reduction in the charged conduct. These cases are unique because they can involve of-age (18-year-old) alleged victims, unlike most other accusations of a sexual nature involving teenagers.
Improper Student-Teacher Relationships Still on the Rise
The Texas Education Agency reports that allegations of improper teacher-student relationships, also known as improper educator-student relationships, have continued to rise. For example, in 2015, the Texas Education Agency investigated 188 improper relationships, followed by 222 the following year. To address the problem, the Texas Legislature toughened the law in 2017, adding criminal and administrative penalties to crackdown on improper educator-student relationships. (Learn about the 2017 updates to the law.)
During fiscal 2017-2018, TEA opened 429 cases into inappropriate students-educator relationships. Officials believe the increase is due, in part, to the new legislation which expanded reporting requirements and subjected superintendents and principals who failed to report improper conduct to criminal charges.
What is Improper Relationship between Educator and Student in Texas?
In the simplest terms, Texas law prohibits a teacher from having sexual contact with a student. More specifically, Penal Code Section 21.12 (a) prohibits an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school from having sexual contact with a student. Notice that this offense can be charged against any employee, from a janitor to a superintendent.
What is Sexual Contact?
“Sexual contact” means any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
Improper Relationship between Educator and Student in the Media
These offenses frequently make headlines. Because they garner a great deal of public attention, they are taken very seriously by prosecutors. Individuals accused of offenses are generally fired or suspended indefinitely. There may be collateral CPS investigations.
It is important that educators contact an attorney immediately if they have reason to believe they are under investigation, or certainly if they have been arrested. While we hope to keep allegations out of the media, our firm is uniquely positioned to manage media contact while remaining in the bounds of a lawyer’s ethical obligations. Call us at (817) 203-2220.
Will I have to register as a sex offender?
Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student is presently not one of the offenses for which sex offender registration is required in Texas at this time. However, attempts have been by made to change this. Be sure to check with your attorney to find out when the last time Code of Criminal Procedure 62.001 was amended.
It’s also important to note that, while improper relationship is not a registerable offense at the moment, other charges that often become companion cases such as aggravated sexual assault or online solicitation of a minor do have registration requirements. Learn more about sex offender registration in Texas.
What is the punishment for Improper Relationship between Educator and Student?
Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student is a second-degree felony in Texas. The punishment range is 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
What is the statute of limitations for Improper Relationship between Educator and Student?
The statute of limitations for Improper Relationship between Educator and Student is three years.
Are there affirmative defenses to Improper Relationship?
Texas Penal Code 21.12 (b-1) provides the following affirmative defenses:
- The student and teacher were married at the time;
- The teacher was not more than three years older than the student and they had a relationship that began before the teacher’s employment at the school.
Call us at (817) 203-2220 for a complimentary strategy session. Our team of former prosecutors and Board Certified Criminal Lawyers are here to help. During this call we will:
- Discuss the facts of your case;
- Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
- Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.
You can also contact us online:
IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT
(a) An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee:
(1) engages 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;
(2) holds a certificate or permit issued as provided by Subchapter B, Chapter 21, Education Code, or is a person who is required to be licensed by a state agency as provided by Section 21.003(b), Education Code, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:
(A) enrolled in a public primary or secondary school in the same school district as the school at which the employee works; or
(B) a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if:
(i) students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity; and
(ii) the employee provides education services to those participants; or
(3) engages in conduct described by Section 33.021, with a person described by Subdivision (1), or a person the employee knows is a person described by Subdivision (2)(A) or (B), regardless of the age of that person.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
(b-1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:
(1) the actor was the spouse of the enrolled person at the time of the offense; or
(2) the actor was not more than three years older than the enrolled person and, at the time of the offense, the actor and the enrolled person were in a relationship that began before the actor’s employment at a public or private primary or secondary school.
(c) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or both sections.
(d) The name of a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school and involved in an improper relationship with an educator as provided by Subsection (a) may not be released to the public and is not public information under Chapter 552, Government Code.
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