Improper Relationship between Educator and Student
A rash of recent news reports highlight the frequency of allegations involving a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student. Although such incidents seem common, false allegations made by a student can also occur. Even a false allegation can be career ending. Many school districts will immediately place the teacher on administrative leave pending an investigation. The administrative investigation is just the beginning. Texas law provides for harsh penalties for any teacher accused of having an improper relationship with a student.
If you are accused of misconduct by a student or parent then you have certain rights. For instance, you have the right to representation during any investigatory interview when you reasonably believe the interview may result in disciplinary action. Anything you say during the administrative investigation might be used against you later if criminal charges are filed.
The moment you discover that you are suspected of any criminal wrongdoing, you should seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Never make a statement or put anything in writing until after you have retained an attorney.
Attorney for Charges of an Improper Relationship under Section 21.12
The crime of improper relationship between educator and student is charged under Texas Penal Code § 21.12. The 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) 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.
The criminal offense of having an improper relationship between educator and student is punishable as a second degree felony. Additionally, if the conduct prohibited under this statue also constitutes a crime under another statute, the defendant may be prosecuted under either or both offenses without the prosecution being a violation of double jeopardy.
For instance, Texas Penal Code Section 33.021 prohibits on-line solicitation of a student including communicating in a sexually explicit manner with a student or distributing sexually explicit material to a student by email, text message, or other electronic message service for the sexual gratification of any person. The same offense can be prosecuted under Texas Penal Code § 21.12(2).
Because of the devistating nature of the allegations, Texas Penal Code § 21.12(d) protects the name of the student victimized by the educator from being released to the public.
An affirmative defense to prosecution for an improper relationship between educator and student exists if the defendant was the spouse of the student at the time of the offense. See Texas Penal Code Ann. § 21.12(b-1).
Improper Student Relationships - Visit the website of the United Educators Association to learn more about improper student relationships. Many associations provide financial resources for a defense against charges made by a student or parent. For instance, the UEA provides up to $15,000 in legal protection for criminally-related charges including charges for having an improper sexual relationship with a student. Find information on Texas Penal Code Section 21.12 for “improper relationship with a student” and Texas Penal Code Section 33.021 for “on-line solicitation of a student.” Also find information on grooming which is when an educator engages in increasingly inappropriate boundary violations in an effort to gain the trust of the student and prepare the student for a future sexual relationship. The article also provides advice to teachers about what to do if they are told that a student or parent is making an allegation of misconduct or sexual misconduct.
Finding an Attorney to Represent Teachers Against Misconduct Allegations
If you were accused of any sexually motivated crime, including having an improper sexual relationship with a student, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Stuckle & Associates PLLC. Our attorneys provide a free and confidential consultation so that you can talk to a lawyer about the allegation and the best way to protect your career and good name.
We can give you advice about both the administrative hearing and the criminal investigation. The felony penalties and punishments under Texas Penal Code Section 21.12 are serious. Make sure that you understand all of your rights before you take any action. Call (972) 423-4405 today to schedule the consultation. We can begin your defense today.