Record number of student-teacher relationships reported in Texas

FILE - Classroom photo (Nexstar File Photo)
FILE - Classroom photo (Nexstar File Photo)

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, introduced new legislation this week to crack down on the rising number of reported inappropriate teacher-student relationships in Texas public schools.

“School should be a safe place for students to go and learn and prepare for their future,” Isaac said, “and instead we are putting them in harms way.”

Isaac’s bill comes days after the Texas Education Agency (TEA) reported reaching a record breaking number of inappropriate teacher-student relationships. During the fiscal year 2015 to 2016, the TEA reported 222 cases of alleged inappropriate relationships. That’s the highest number the agency has seen since tracking started in 2009.

“When we are dealing with cases that involve student safety we will do our very best to make sure that that educator is not back in a Texas public classroom,” Lauren Callahan with the Texas Education Agency said, “And that we are able to sanction them in a way that they don’t hold that certificate. Again, everything is case by case.”

State Rep. Isaac says that is not always the case, referring to a practice he calls “passing the trash.”

“That’s where you have one teacher that has an inappropriate relationship with a student, and that teacher then resigns and then goes and works at another school district,” Isaac said. “And again there are reports of teachers moving up to four different school districts and having continued repeated inappropriate relationships with a minor.”

Isaac says HB 1403 would ensure that any teacher who engages in an inappropriate relationship with their student loses their teaching certificate altogether.

“We need to stop passing the trash from one school district to another,” Isaac said, “and God forbid this happens, but if it does a teacher should lose their teaching certificate and not be permitted to work in public schools or private schools or be around children period.”

The decision to revoke a teacher’s license is up to the TEA; however, Lauren Callahan says the agency can only sanction a license on a case-by-case scenario.

“We are most concerned and have the highest urgency on these cases that involve student safety,” Callahan said.

Callahan says the process can sometimes take awhile to complete because they only have a handful of investigators to deal with more than 200 cases.

The TEA has requested $400,000 from lawmakers over the next two years to add two more investigators and an additional administrative support person on their staff.

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