As social media websites and cell phones have become increasingly utilized by people of all ages, students have also found additional ways to stay in contact with their teachers outside the classroom. In the best scenarios, the increased outlets for communication allow educators to help students with coursework.
When overly concerned parents see their children communicating with teachers outside the classroom, however, it is not uncommon for that educator to be accused of possible misconduct—even when that teacher’s intentions were entirely innocent. Many states prosecute alleged sexual relationships between educators and students under statutory rape laws, but Texas enacted a statute in 2003 that specifically made it a felony offense for school employees to have sexual contact with students who attended any school in the same district—even when the student is 18 years of age or older.
Attorney for Improper Educator-Student Relationship in Georgetown, TX
If you were arrested or think that you might be under investigation for allegedly having an improper relationship with a student in Central Texas, it will be in your best interest to refuse to make any kind of statement to authorities until you have legal representation. Price & Twine, PLLC aggressively defends school employees accused of sex crimes in Benton, Harker Heights, Leander, Taylor, Hutto, and many surrounding areas of Williamson County and Bell County.
Michael J. Price is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Georgetown who can fight to help you achieve the most favorable outcome to your case, including possibly getting the criminal charges reduced or dismissed. Call (512) 354-1880 today to have our attorney review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of Improper Relationship Between an Educator and Student in Texas
- When can a person be charged with this offense?
- Are there any defenses against these charges?
- Where can I find more information about improper relationship between educator and student in Georgetown?
Texas Penal Code § 21.12(a) establishes that an employee of a public or private primary or secondary schools commits the crime of improper relationship between educator and student if he or she does any of the following:
- Engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a student who is enrolled in at the same public or private primary or secondary school at which the alleged offender works;
- Holds a certificate or permit issued by the State Board for Educator Certification or is a person who is required to be licensed by a state agency under the Texas Education Code and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a student they know is enrolled in a public primary or secondary school in the same school district as the school at which they work or a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school if students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity and the alleged offender provides education services to those participants; or
- Engages in conduct described by Texas Penal Code § 33.021 (online solicitation of a minor) with a student who is enrolled in at the same public or private primary or secondary school at which the alleged offender works, or a student the alleged offender knows is enrolled in a public primary or secondary school in the same school district as the school at which they work or a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school if students, regardless of the age of that student. [The Eleventh Court of Appeals dismissed three counts of improper relationship between educator and student in a 2015 case mentioned in the resources below because the Court of Criminal Appeals determined in 2013 that Texas Penal Code § 33.021(b) was unconstitutionally overbroad and violated the First Amendment.]
Texas Penal Code § 21.12(c) further states that when conduct constituting an improper relationship between educator and student offense also constitutes an offense under another section of the Texas Penal Code, the alleged offender may be prosecuted under either section or both sections.
Improper relationship between an educator and student is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Texas Penal Code § 21.12(b-1) does provide two affirmative defenses that alleged offenders may utilize in these cases:
- The alleged offender was the spouse of the enrolled student at the time of the alleged offense; or
- The alleged offender was not more than three years older than the enrolled person and, at the time of the offense, the alleged offender and the enrolled person were in a relationship that began before the alleged offender’s employment at a public or private primary or secondary school.
It is important to remember that every case is different, and there may be unique circumstances in your situation that allow for different defenses. A prosecutor can also have a hard time convicting an alleged offender when criminal charges are based more on speculation with no real evidence of actual misconduct.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) — Headed by the commissioner of education, the TEA is the state agency that oversees primary and secondary public education. Visit this website to view disciplinary rules, disciplinary policy guidelines, and disciplinary actions taken against Texas educators. You can also view answers to frequently asked questions about State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) discipline of educators and superintendent reporting of educator misconduct.
Surge in improper student-teacher relationships prompts state inquiry — On December 6, 2015, the Austin American-Statesman published this story about state lawmakers’ intention to launch a “comprehensive review of how Texas should respond to the increase in complaints of sexual misconduct by teachers and inappropriate relationships between educators and students.” According to the Statesman, there was a 53 percent increase in the number of student-teacher relationships investigated by the TEA over the prior seven years. Of the 188 Texas cases opened in fiscal year 2015, TEA had cleared 19 teachers of wrongdoing as of that November and at least 35 others had already lost their teaching licenses.
Collins v. State, (App. 11 Dist. 2015) 479 S.W.3d 533 — April Collins was charged by indictment with four counts of improper relationship between educator and student. On November 5, 2015, the Eleventh Court of Appeals dismissed three of those counts after the court, following the rationale of the Court of Criminal Appeals in Ex parte Lo, 424 S.W.3d 10, 14 (Tex.Crim.App.2013), held that Texas Penal Code § 21.12(a)(3) is unconstitutionally broad insofar as it incorporates the unconstitutionally broad Texas Penal Code § 33.021(b). Collins ultimately pleaded guilty to the one remaining count of improper relationship between educator and student and was sentenced to three years deferred adjudication, a $750 fine, and permanent surrender of her teaching certificate, although she was not required to register as a sex offender.
Price & Twine, PLLC | Georgetown Improper Relationship Between an Educator and Student Lawyer
Do you believe that you could be under investigation or were you already arrested in Central Texas for an alleged improper relationship between an educator and student? Even if you are completely confident about your innocence, do not say anything to authorities until you have contacted Price & Twine, PLLC.
Georgetown criminal defense attorney Michael J. Price represents individuals throughout Williamson County and Bell County, including Georgetown, Temple, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Killeen, and several other nearby communities. You can have him provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call (512) 354-1880 or submit an online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.