Senate Bill 7, effective on September 1st, expands the scope of offenses related to improper relationships between educators and students, tightens reporting requirements, and authorizes administrative penalties against educators who engage in improper relationships with students. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
Criminal Misconduct Expanded
Under amended Penal Code § 21.12(a), an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense under three circumstances:
- The employee 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.
- The employee holds the position of teacher, teacher intern or teacher trainee, librarian, educational aide, administrator, educational diagnostician, or school counselor, regardless of whether the employee holds the appropriate certificate, permit, license, or credential for the position, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with (1) a person the employee knows is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school, other than a school described by #1 above; or (2) a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if the students are the primary participants in the activity; or
- The employee engages in online solicitation of a minor under Penal Code § 33.021, with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works, or a person the employee knows is a person described by #2 above, regardless of the age of that person. Online solicitation includes intentional communication in a sexually explicit manner or distribution of sexually explicit material to a minor via the Internet, electronic mail, text message or other electronic message service or system. The communication must be done with the intent to commit criminal sexual misconduct described in the Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 62.001(5)(A), (B), and (K).
Notification Of Misconduct Required; Failure To Do So Is A State Jail Felony
SB 7 also requires the principal of a school district, district of innovation, or open-enrollment charter school campus to notify the superintendent or director of the school district, district of innovation, or charter school of misconduct. The report must be made not later than the seventh business day after the date of an educator’s termination of employment or resignation following an alleged incident of misconduct or the principal knew about an educator’s criminal record. The superintendent or director also must notify the State Board for Educator Certification by filing a report with the board not later than the seventh business day after the date the superintendent or director receives a report from a principal or knew about an educator’s termination of employment or resignation following an alleged incident of misconduct. The report must be in writing and in a form prescribed by the board. SBEC will determine whether to impose sanctions, including administrative penalties, against a principal who fails to provide notification to a superintendent or director or against a superintendent or director who fails to file a report. SBEC may impose on the educator an administrative penalty of not less than $500 and not more than $10,000 to a principal or superintendent who fails to report and the person’s certification may not be renewed until the penalty is paid. A principal, superintendent or director required to file a report commits a state jail felony if they fail to do so by the date required with intent to conceal an educator’s criminal record or alleged incident of misconduct.
Notice to Parents
A new provision of the Education Code, § 21.0061 also requires the board of trustees or governing body of a school district, district of innovation, open-enrollment charter school, regional education service center, or shared services arrangement to adopt a policy under which notice is provided to the parent or guardian of a student with whom an educator is alleged to have engaged in misconduct informing the parent or guardian: (1) that the alleged misconduct occurred; (2) whether the educator was terminated following an investigation of the alleged misconduct or resigned before completion of the investigation; and (3) whether a report was submitted to SBEC concerning the alleged misconduct. The notice must be given “as soon as feasible” after the employing entity becomes aware that alleged misconduct may have occurred.
The Legislature also added Education Code § 21.009, requiring applicants to submit a pre-employment affidavit disclosing whether the applicant has ever been charged with, adjudicated for, or convicted of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor. An applicant who answers affirmatively concerning an inappropriate relationship with a minor must disclose in the affidavit all relevant facts pertaining to the charge, adjudication, or conviction, including, for a charge, whether the charge was determined to be true or false. An applicant is not precluded from being employed based on a disclosed charge if the employing entity determines based on the information disclosed in the affidavit that the charge was false. A determination that an employee failed to disclose information required to be disclosed is grounds for termination of employment. In addition, SBEC may revoke the certificate of an administrator if the board determines it is reasonable to believe that the administrator employed an applicant despite being aware that the applicant had been adjudicated for or convicted of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor.
Educator Preparation Programs & Continuing Education
Educator preparation programs must now include information regarding appropriate relationships, boundaries, and communications between educators and students. Continuing education requirements for a classroom teacher also must provide instruction regarding understanding appropriate relationships, boundaries, and communications between educators and students, as well as preventing, recognizing, and reporting any sexual conduct between an educator and student that is prohibited under Section 21.12, Penal Code, or for which reporting is required under Education Code § 21.006. Senate Bill 7 also requires districts to adopt policies concerning appropriate communications between educators and students.
Revocation For Assisting Person Committing Misconduct
Under new Education Code § 21.0581, SBEC may suspend or revoke a certificate held by a person, impose other sanctions, or refuse to issue a certificate to the person if (1) the person assists another person in obtaining employment at a school district or open-enrollment charter school, other than by the routine transmission of administrative and personnel files; and (2) the person knew that the other person has previously engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor or student in violation of the law. The commissioner may also require a school district to revoke or decline to issue a school district teaching permit for this same misconduct.
Impact On TRS Retirement Annuity For Misconduct
A person’s annuity under the Texas Retirement System may also be forfeited for persons convicted of the following felonies if they involve a student: continuous sexual abuse of a child or children; improper relationship between educator and student; sexual assault; aggravated sexual assault; or any federal offense containing similar elements.
Keep in mind, these are just some of the highlights of Senate Bill 7. To read the full text of the bill, click here: Senate Bill 7 Text