Educator-student misconduct in Texas has hit an all-time high for the eighth year in a row, reaching 222 investigations conducted by the Texas Education Agency in the 2015-16 school year.
Due to the increase in their workload, TEA is seeking additional investigators in order to complete the cases in a timely manner.
The TEA confirmed earlier in the week a total of 222 investigations, which accounts for an 80% increase from the 2008-09 school year when 123 cases were opened. The year after that it increased to 141 cases, while 152 cases were reported in 2010-11. Meanwhile, 156 cases were opened in 2011-12, 163 cases in 2012-13, and 188 cases in 2013-14. The spike reported in 2014-15 was so concerning to some lawmakers that they decided to meet in order to determine the role of social media in the development of these improper educator-student relationships.
The TEA is also requesting an electronic media policy be implemented at each school district, to clearly outline expected behavior while interacting on social media, writes Julie Chang for My Statesman.
“Probably 99% of cases that come across the investigators desks, of an inappropriate relationships, have something to do with social media or electronic media,” said Callahan.
Merrill Hope writes for Breitbart that while some of the educators who cross the line sexually with underage students are teachers, others are aides, coaches, and principals.
The director of investigations for the agency believes the actual number of relationships could be much higher than what is reported.
“We believe there are unreported teacher-student relationships,” said Doug Phillips, a former police officer who now oversees all teacher investigations at the agency.
Phillips went on to say that many times schools make secret deals with teachers in order to keep the information from the press. He added that the agency is aware of the misconduct that takes place, as the teacher involved agrees to resign so long as the information is not reported.
Typically, cases are brought the attention of the investigations unit in one of two ways; either after the educator is arrested, in which case the agency is notified when the teacher is fingerprinted, or, a superintendent files a 249 report after an arrest or termination that came as the result of misconduct.
According to Phillips, the records kept by the state concerning where the incidents are occurring are not broken down by district, campus, or type of school. Instead, the agency tracks by educator, as that is who gets sanctions.
An investigation performed by Channel 2 Investigates into 249 reports found over 1,200 instances of inappropriate relationships with minors since 2011. However, just 144 of these cases resulted in teachers having their licenses revoked.
The TEA notes that many of these cases result in teachers agreeing to a temporary suspension, which typically results in a plea bargain.
“It depends on the severity and nature of that relationship. Was it a sexual relationship? That’s revoked, no question about it,” Phillips said. “Was it a matter of texting but we can’t prove there was any sort of relationship? It’s very common for an educator to deny and for the victim to deny that anything happened, and it is not uncommon for parents to not cooperate at all.”