- Stuart Seeger via Flickr Commons
On Friday, Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) filed Senate Bill 7 in order to try and reel in a problem that has become such a mess that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently named inappropriate teacher-student relationships as a top 10 legislative priority heading into the 2017 regular session. Lt. Gov. Patrick announced the initiative on the same day that a San Antonio soccer coach was charged with allegedly showing naked photos of himself to a 17-year-old girl.
"Any inappropriate relationships between teachers and students must be stamped out, period,” says Bettencourt. "I was shocked to hear in testimony before the Senate Education Committee that in some cases school districts simply quashed subpoenas and 'passed the trash' rather than protecting the students in their charge. That is unacceptable."
According to a Texas Education Report released in September, the Austin-based organization, which oversees public primary and secondary education in the state, had opened 222 cases involving improper relationships between adult-aged educators and underage students in fiscal year 2015-2016. According to the district office of Sen. Bettencourt, TEA has already opened 49 cases in the current fiscal year.
SB 7 will attempt to thwart the problem by automatically revoking a teacher's certificate if the offender receives deferred adjudication for an educator misconduct offense or any offense that would require them to register as a sex offender; expanding reporting requirements to also include superintendents and principals; and granting TEA additional subpoena power when contacting relevant witnesses.
“With the prevalence of social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others, it is easier than ever to communicate,” says Bettencourt. “It is time for everyone involved to stop looking the other way and stamp this problem out."