Inappropriate sexual relationships between students and teachers are increasing in Texas, as the state continues to hold the dubious distinction of leading the nation in reported cases.
The state's education agency has investigated 74 alleged sexual student-teacher relationships in the last five months, writes the Associated Press. The agency learns of criminal cases via a fingerprint database that updates when school employee is arrested, or from a 249 report, which is filed by a superintendent after a teacher resigns, is arrested, or is terminated for alleged misconduct.
If the TEA finds enough evidence against a school employee, the case is forwarded to the State Board for Educator Certification's legal team, which conducts its own investigation. Then, a case is filed with the State Office of Administrative Hearing, who decides how to administer punishment. The educator's certification is revoked immediately if they are sentenced to prison, writes Joshua Fechter of My San Antonio. Otherwise, the process may take years.
The last three years has seen a 27% increase in investigations: the 2009-2010 school year had 141 accusations, and the 2013-2014 year had 179. This is more than double Pennsylvania's 45 cases, and they are second in the country, says Ashley Johnson of My Fox Houston. Nationwide, there were 781 reports.
The list of Texas cases is a long one, and some accounts are particularly shocking. A former teacher in Aldine admitting to giving a student a birthday lap dance. In Donna, a school security guard was suspended for sending sexual texts to female students. A band director in Waco had sex with a high school girl in his music room. A French teacher in San Antonio was caught straddling a 15-year-old student in her car, and another teacher in the same district was sentenced to 17 years in prison for producing child pornography with a 16-year-old student whom he impregnated.
A female teacher avoided a long sentence because she became pregnant by a 13-year-old. A biology teacher and cheerleading coach in Pasadena was caught when a naked snapchat she sent to a student was passed around to friends. In 2011, a Sharpstown teacher gave birth to two babies fathered by a 16-year-old student.
Terry Abbott, the formed US Department of Education Chief of Staff, wrote a Washington Post editorial arguing that "classroom sexual predators have been exploiting" social media. He says:
These instantaneous, omnipresent, and discreet connections have created an open gateway for inappropriate behavior.
We see too many of these cases where 13, 14, 15-year-old students are victimized, and teachers are walking away with probation. That's wrong. They need to go to jail.
I don't believe that there's any way that a teacher would walk up to a student in a hallway and lean over and say "Hey, would you like to see a naked picture of me?" But they will do it on social media.
We had one teacher send a text asking what time the ball game started. Very shortly after that she's involved with five students at one time.
His Houston-based research firm, Drive West Communications, found that 44% of news reports on student-teacher relationships in Texas reported social media contact. For this reason, New Jersey has banned teachers adding students on Facebook without written approval from the principal, and can only contact them digitally via district-owned computers, writes Anneta Konstantinides of the Daily Mail.