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Can I Get in Trouble for Knowing About Sexual Abuse Between a Teacher and a Student?

Sexual abuse charges under state and federal law are extremely serious. In some cases, the failure to report the abuse can also be a crime. When school employees know about sexual abuse or an improper relationship between a teacher and student, the failure to handle the matter properly can even result in a disciplinary hearing and being fired from the job.

Aiding and abetting sexual abuse allegations often arise when a school employee becomes aware that another teacher or educator has sexually abused a student. Teachers and educators are, in many cases, required to report any type of abuse of a student.

The attorneys at Stuckle and Associates, PLLC, represent teachers, educators and school employees who are falsely accused of sexual misconduct with a student in Plano, TX, and the surrounding areas around Dallas-Fort Worth including Dallas County, Grayson County, Collin County, Tarrant County, Hunt County, and Denton County.

Contact our offices at (972) 423-4405 to schedule an initial consultation, either in the office or on the phone.

SBEC Proposed Amendments to Prohibit Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse

On August 5, 2016, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) proposed amendments to 19 TAC Chapter 247 of the Educators’ Code of Ethics. The proposed amendment to 19 TAC §247.1 would make changes to refer to the titles of cross-referenced sections from 19 TAC Chapter 249, Disciplinary Proceedings, Sanctions, and Contested Cases.

If the amendment, as proposed in August 2016, is approved and adopted subject to the State Board of Education (SBOE) review, then the effective date of the proposed amendments to 19 TAC §247.1 and §247.2 would be December 27, 2016. This effective date is 20 days after filing as adopted with the Texas Register.

Prohibition Against Helping a School Employee Obtain a New Job After Sexual Misconduct

The proposed amendment that would add the new language in 19 TAC §247.2(1)(N) is intended to mirror the requirements of ESSA, 20 United States Code, §7926 (2015).

19 TAC §247.2(1)(N) Standard 1.14 provides:

The educator shall not assist another educator, school employee, contractor, or agent in obtaining a new job as an educator or in a school, apart from the routine transmission of administrative and personnel files, if the educator knows or has probable cause to believe that such person engaged in sexual misconduct regarding a minor or student in violation of the law.

Under federal law, state educational agencies that receive federal funds are required to adopt rules that prohibit school employees from helping another school employee find a new job after an allegation of sexual misconduct regarding a minor or student.

The public comment period on the proposal begins August 26, 2016, and ends September 26, 2016. The SBEC will take registered oral and written comments on this item at the October 7, 2016, meeting in accordance with the SBEC board operating policies and procedures.

Under Chapter 247, Educators’ Code of Ethics, §247.1. (e)(1), the term “Abuse” - includes the following acts or omissions:

(A) mental or emotional injury to a student or minor that results in an observable and material impairment in the student's or minor's development, learning, or psychological functioning;

(B) causing or permitting a student or minor to be in a situation in which the student or minor sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in the student's or minor's development, learning, or psychological functioning;

(C) physical injury that results in substantial harm to a student or minor, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the student or minor, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline; or

(D) sexual conduct harmful to a student's or minor's mental, emotional, or physical welfare.

Disciplinary Actions Against a Teacher or Educator in Texas

A disciplinary action against the teacher or educator typically begins with a complaint. The complaint is a written statement submitted to the Texas Education Agency staff that contains facts alleging improper conduct by an educator, applicant, or examinee, the complainant's verifiable contact information, including full name, complete address, and phone number, which provides grounds for sanctions.

After a petition is served, the allegations can be contested. The contested hearings are conducted by the State Board for Educator Certification and/or the State Office of Administrative Hearings. If the allegation involves sexual misconduct with a student or aiding and abetting sexual abuse, it is particularly important to seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

A disciplinary proceeding applies to any matter relating to Disciplinary Proceedings, Sanctions, and Contested Cases that results in a final order or finding issued by the Texas Education Agency staff, the State Office of Administrative Hearings, or the State Board for Educator Certification relating to the legal rights, duties, privileges, and status of a party's educator certificate.

20 United States Code, §7926- Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse

Under federal law, 20 United States Code, §7926 prohibits Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse under the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (often called “EESA”). Specifically, 20 United States Code, §7926 (ESSA), requires state educational agencies to adopt rules prohibiting school employees from assisting another school employee in obtaining a new job, if the school employee seeking employment has engaged in illegal sexual misconduct with a student or minor.

Any state, state educational agency, or local educational agency if the local educational agency receives Federal funds under this chapter has laws, regulations, or policies that prohibit any individual who is a school employee, contractor, or agent, or any state educational agency or local educational agency, from assisting a school employee, contractor, or agent in obtaining a new job, apart from the routine transmission of administrative and personnel files, if the individual or agency knows, or has probable cause to believe, that such school employee, contractor, or agent engaged in sexual misconduct regarding a minor or student in violation of the law.

Exception to the Prohibition Against Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse

The prohibition against aiding and abetting sexual abuse does not apply if the information giving rise to probable cause:

  • has been properly reported to a law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the alleged misconduct; and
  • has been properly reported to any other authorities as required by Federal, State, or local law, including title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.) and the regulations implementing such title under part 106 of title 34, Code of Federal Regulations, or any succeeding regulations; and
  • the matter has been officially closed or the prosecutor or police with jurisdiction over the alleged misconduct has investigated the allegations and notified school officials that there is insufficient information to establish probable cause that the school employee, contractor, or agent engaged in sexual misconduct regarding a minor or student in violation of the law;
  • the school employee, contractor, or agent has been charged with, and acquitted or otherwise exonerated of the alleged misconduct; or
  • the case or investigation remains open and there have been no charges filed against, or indictment of, the school employee, contractor, or agent within 4 years of the date on which the information was reported to a law enforcement agency.

It is important to note that the federal government does not have the authority to mandate, direct, or control the specific measures adopted by the State of Texas, the Texas Educational Agency, or local educational agency under the ESSA.

Additionally, the ESSA does not prevent Texas from adopting or overriding Texas law, regulation, or policy that provides, greater or additional protections to prohibit any individual who is a school employee, contractor, or agent, or any State educational agency or local educational agency, from assisting a school employee who engaged in sexual misconduct regarding a minor or student in violation of the law in obtaining a new job.

Improper Relationships Between Educators and Students in Texas

Allegations of improper relationships between educators and students in Texas are extremely serious. The crime is often charged under Texas Penal Code § 21.12 as a second-degree felony. The felony statute prohibits sexual contact between a student and an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school. The statute provides:

a) An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee engages in:

(1) 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 and who is not the employee's spouse; or

(2) the conduct described by Section 33.021 [for online solicitation of a minor] with a person described by Subdivision (1), regardless of the age of that person.

Additional Resources

Texas Law Against Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse - Visit the website of the Texas Education Agency to read more about the proposed amendment that would add new 19 TAC §247.2(1)(N) to the to 19 TAC Chapter 247, Educators' Code of Ethic in order to implement the ESSA, 20 United States Code, §7926 (2015) in the State of Texas.

Finding an Attorney for Charges of Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse in Texas

The criminal defense attorneys at Stuckle and Associates, PLLC, represent clients who have been charged with child sexual abuse crimes in the greater Dallas – Ft. Worth, Texas. Our attorneys are particularly experienced in representing teachers and educators who are falsely accused of child abuse or sexual misconduct involving a student.

Read more about sexual or other improper relationships between an educator and a student in Texas.

The attorneys at Stuckle and Associates, PLLC, represent teachers, educators and school employees, falsely accused of sexual misconduct with a student in Plano, TX, and the surrounding areas around Dallas-Fort Worth including Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, Tarrant County, Hunt County, and Grayson County. Contact our offices at (972) 423-4405 to schedule an initial consultation, either in the office or on the phone.

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