In 2012, Jane Doe, a 13-year-old freshman at Memorial High School on the northwest side, was cornered by Manuel Hernandez, a police officer with the Edgewood Independent School District, and forced to perform sexual acts on multiple occasions, according court documents.
Soon after Jane Doe started her sophomore year, chemistry teacher Marcus Revilla also engaged in a sexual predatory pattern with the underage student. According to court documents, there was sexual assault, sexual abuse, groping, touching, sodomy, oral sex, sexual intercourse, sexual molestation, pornographic photographing and recording of sex acts. All on the grounds of Memorial High.
It got uglier, according to a lawsuit filed on December 5 in San Antonio federal district court.
Hernandez and Revilla would issue hall passes to Jane Doe, a minor whose identity is protected in the civil suit, in order for the high-school kid to ditch class to have sex with one of them. Eventually, she became pregnant and DNA tests revealed that Revilla was the father.
The suit alleges that teachers, administrators and officials at Memorial High and Edgewood ISD looked the other way
and didn’t report the improper teacher-student relationship to the Texas Education Agency, Child Protective Services or to any local law enforcement agency. Eventually, Revilla was arrested, charged with multiple criminal counts and slapped with 13-year prison sentences in state and federal court; Hernandez awaits trial in Bexar County.
Proposed legislation that has been introduced in the 2017 Texas Legislature will try to eliminate these disturbing instances of inappropriate student-teacher relationships, which hit an eight-year high in 2016
, according to TEA. Senate Bill 7, filed by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston)
, and House Bill 218, filed by Rep. Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park), seek to rein in the alarming trend by intensifying prosecution measures and expanding reporting requirement liabilities.
In many cases, educators who have been accused or under suspicion of sexual misconduct with one of their students can simply move to another school district – and not even in a different state – and procure another teaching job.
“There has to be a prohibition of passing the trash and there has to be severe penalties for anyone who aids and abets a sexual predator in schools,” says Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.), who advised Texas lawmakers as they crafted “pass the trash” legislation. “Proper vetting when employing educators or school workers is very important, language that says that they must look into full employment history of an applicant where they had supervision over children and garner that information from every employer.”
“Just cut to the chase. Ask it straight out: was this person ever under suspicion? Were allegations ever brought against this person for sexual misconduct? That’s how we address the issue from the front end. We stop those predators from gaining access to a classroom full of students when we do that type of vetting,” says Miller of the Las Vegas, Nevada-based advocacy organization.
Miller says that a handful of states don’t limit the age of protection (Texas is not one of them), and that Nevada is one of the most recent states to change that language to include students that are 18 years old and up. She says that Ohio's revised state criminal statute that’s been in place since the 1990s is one of the best overall models she has seen.
“It defines every position of trust you can imagine. Scout leaders, Little League coaches, private instructors, clergy, people in the medical field. You name it,” says Miller. “[Ohio] doesn’t limit the age of protection either.”
“The trash gets there in the first place because they’re not properly vetted or trained at the college level when they’re studying to become teachers. There’s no course that they’re required to go through on keeping proper boundaries and codes of ethics,” adds Miller. “In fact, unlike doctors and lawyers, there’s not even a national code of ethics for this particular profession. That’s a huge problem.”