In Texas and elsewhere, teacher arrests for inappropriate contact with students are rising.
Just this month, a former California “Teacher of the Year” was arrested and charged with having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, that being a 16-year-old male student. She was held on $30,000 bail at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino, California.
According to People magazine, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department believes other juveniles also may have been victimized, and authorities are asking them to come forward.
The math teacher, 38, had been named “Teacher of the Year” at Yucaipa High School in 2017.
Texas teacher arrests are adding up
Texas teacher arrests also are adding up.
Tyler substitute teacher arrested
Recently, a female former substitute teacher in Tyler was arrested and charged with having an improper relationship with a student.
The woman, 48, was also charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. She was booked into Smith County Jail on May 19 with her bond set at $250,000.
In Texas, the punishments for this crime, a first-degree felony, include a prison sentence of 5 to 99 years, or life, and a fine of up to $10,000.
According to Tyler’s KLTV TV, the incident allegedly took place on May 16 at Ramey Elementary School, where the woman was serving as a substitute teacher. The student in the incident came forward to report it, and after the substitute teacher’s arrest, her employment was terminated.
Hundreds of sex crime investigations open in recent years
According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), these crimes have been rising each year, including a 36 percent jump in the 2017 fiscal year—the 7th consecutive year that number rose.
A report in the Houston Chronicle indicated that the TEA opened 302 investigations into improper teacher-student relationships in 2016-2017 alone.
In addition, during the 2018-2019 fiscal years, TEA tracked 442 such inappropriate relationships. And since 2010, over 1,500 investigations into improper teacher-student relationships have been opened. Such sex crimes are unfortunately common in the Houston area.
In 2019, a teacher in the Houston Independent School District was charged with sexual assault of a child under 17 after a student claimed she had performed oral sex on him.
Of course, these offenses aren’t confined to Texas, and they’re often widely reported as national news. According to a report by People magazine, this month, a North Carolina public school teacher who was once nominated as “Teacher of the Year” was arrested and charged with statutory rape of a child less than 15 years old.
The suspect, who’s the mother of 4, asked a judge to set her bond amount at a low figure so she could pay it and return home to take care of her children. That was denied. Instead, her bond was set at $1 million.
Austin high school teacher arrested
Meanwhile in Austin, a male high school teacher was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child and improper relationship between educator and student. Both are second-degree felonies. Under Texas law, punishments for such crimes can include a prison sentence of 2 to 20 years and a fine of as much as $10,000.
According to KVUE TV, the teacher, 27, is charged with having an improper relationship with a female student, 16.
The student reported to the school’s principal that the teacher started contacting her with text messages and Snapchat in January before the relationship became physical. She said she’d provided the teacher with her phone number in order to be included in a group chat for a school club, and his texts—which became increasingly sexual—began soon after that.
The teacher allegedly sent her inappropriate photos of himself and, in person, touched the student inappropriately more than once, according to an affidavit.
Law enforcement officials said they retrieved over 300 Snapchat messages between the two as evidence.
Arlington high school teacher arrested
Also recently, a male teacher at charter high school Newman International Academy in Arlington was arrested and charged with an improper relationship between educator and student. Again, that is a second-degree felony.
According to Fox News, the teacher, 34, was arrested by NIA Department of Public Safety officers in Arlington after a week-long investigation. The teacher was placed on paid administrative leave, is no longer working for the school and is not permitted to return to campus.
San Antonio high school teacher and coach arrested
Meanwhile in San Antonio, a female teacher and coach, 28, at Warren High School turned herself in and was arrested and charged with having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old female student. The teacher was placed on administrative leave, and her bond was set at $50,000.
KSAT TV said an affidavit stated the relationship was reported to authorities by a friend of the girl, who had spent several nights at the teacher’s home.
Katy independent school teacher arrested
Also, in the Houston suburb of Katy, a Katy Independent School District teacher was investigated after a parent alerted the district about inappropriate text messages on her daughter’s phone.
KHOU TV reported that the messages were allegedly sent by a teacher at the Opportunity Awareness Center, an alternate discipline school for Katy ISD.
How Texas sex crime laws have changed
Texas sex crime laws have changed to combat this ongoing crisis.
In 2017, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that requires school principals to notify their school district superintendents if a teacher is terminated or resigns after allegations of serious misconduct.
Another new law, which took effect in September 2019, requires superintendents to report within 7 days when a non-certified employee resigns or is terminated due to allegations of an improper relationship with a student.
How social media is impacting this crisis
TEA says the rise of social media has had 2 substantial impacts on the situation.
First, social media gives teachers greater access to contact students (and gives students greater access to contact teachers) beyond a normal classroom situation— and thus can contribute to improper teacher-student relationships.
Second, evidence revealed on social media can contribute to pinpointing such improper relationships and, later, to prosecution. In fact, an improper teacher-student relationship may exist entirely on social media and still be an arrest-worthy offense.
Take the case of disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who was sentenced to 21 months in prison for “sexting” with a minor he’d never actually met in person.
Texas treats teacher sex offenders harshly
Texas also tends to treat teacher sex offenders harshly—along with others who commit sex crimes involving minors.
In Texas, a sex crime involving a minor may lead to decades in prison and high fines, as well as having to register as a sex offender upon release from prison.
Female offenders are more common among teachers
According to the Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM), while women in the general population account for only around 10 percent of all sex crimes reported to authorities, as much as 30 percent of sexual offenses committed by teachers against students are committed by women teachers.
The CSOM, run by the US Department of Justice, says many of these women strongly deny that they committed such crimes.
Another recent study, which was conducted by Fox News Digital, found a percentage almost as high for female teachers, rather than male teachers, committing sex crimes against students.
Its analysis of publicized cases in the first 4 and a half months of 2022 showed that 30 of the 135 US teachers arrested for child-related sex crimes were female, while 105 were male. That means over 22 percent of teachers involved in teacher-student sex crimes were female.
While 22 percent is less than the 30 percent of females involved in teacher-student sex crimes in the CSOM study, it’s still far more than the general population numbers showing that women are the offenders in 10 percent of all sex crimes involving persons of any age.
Teacher-student sex crimes make the news
Sex crimes involving children have a high degree of notoriety. They receive more publicity, more public outrage and harsher penalties than sex crimes in general.
This means that male and female teachers are more in the spotlight when it comes to teacher-student sex crimes, which can be committed by teachers, substitute teachers or teachers’ aides.
Varied types of teacher-student sex crimes
Such teacher-student sex crimes can occur across a broad range of varied offenses, from child pornography to sexual assault to sexual abuse of students.
In Texas, even “sexting” can be treated as a sex crime in cases when a teacher and a student share sexual images via their cell phones. (Cell phone usage has contributed both to teachers’ accessibility to students and to evidence in criminal cases.)
Though not referred to as “sexting” under Texas Penal Code §43.24, the process that’s forbidden by Texas law is the same. An adult who displays or distributes material that’s harmful or prurient (excessively sexual) to a minor under the age of 18 has committed a crime in Texas.
Even teens who have reached the age of consent in Texas, which is 17, should not be involved in such sharing of sexual material with an adult. (The age of consent is the age at which a person can legally consent to sexual activity.)
While teens can legally share such images with a dating partner within 2 years of their own age, if a 17-year-old shares sexual images with an adult aged 20 or older, that can be considered a crime—for both the teen and adult.
In fact, if a teacher receives sexual images from a student, that can constitute the crime of possession of child pornography.
Along with teachers, any employee of a public or private elementary school, middle school or high school commits a crime by having sexual contact with a student of any age who is enrolled at their school or is enrolled in their school district.
A defense for teachers accused of sexual misconduct
Making accusations is easy, especially in sensitive matters, such as alleged sexual misconduct. However, it’s important to remember that an accusation does not define guilt.
Not every educator accused of inappropriate sexual relations with a student is culpable.
There have been instances where resentment from students, possibly due to low grades, has prompted false allegations against teachers as a means of retaliation. Other scenarios involve students who react negatively after being rejected in their inappropriate advances towards a teacher.
The National Education Association recommends teachers facing such allegations seek the support of a legal representative. This representative should be present in any meeting or discussions related to the accusation. In these trying times, it is crucial to have the right representation to ensure the truth prevails.
Get an experienced sex crime defense lawyer
If you or a family member faces a charge such as these in the Houston area, you must get an experienced sex crime defense lawyer or attorney to defend your legal rights.
Texas lawmakers have added increasingly severe punishments for teachers convicted of the second-degree felony of having improper relationships with students. Such a crime can include any form of sexual contact between a teacher and a student, including via texting, email or social media.
Keep in mind that if the student involved in the alleged incident is under 14 years old, the crime becomes a first-degree felony with even worse punishments.
Frequently such crimes are brought to light via text messages, emails or social media contact between a teacher and a student, now that cell phones make that readily possible outside of school.
Whatever the case, you need the best defense lawyer you can find to fight for your legal rights. Contact the award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm today for a confidential review of your case.