Improper student-teacher relationships on the rise in Texas

The number of reports of Texas teachers accused of improper relationships with students is on pace to break a record this year, according to the Texas Education Agency.

From a Houston-area school teacher accused of getting pregnant with a 13-year-old's child to a recent Skyline teacher accused of an improper relationship with a former student and a Plano ISD high school teacher indicted on 9 child sex assault charges, the TEA says we're not just hearing about cases like these more often. The numbers show they're steadily on the rise.

Approximately 162 improper student-teacher relationship investigations are being conducted so far this year, with final numbers calculated after August.

TEA spokesperson Lauren Callahan says the agency is meeting with legislators about tackling student teacher communication rules next session.

"We want to make sure they're appropriately sanctioned,” said Callahan “And if they need to come out of the classroom forever, then certainly we want to make sure that happens as quickly as possible."

The TEA cites the rise of social media as part of the problem. TEA officials are meeting with legislators in an effort to toughen social media policies between teachers and students statewide, rather than allow individual districts to set the rules.

“We were fighting for subpoena power which we got because there were instances in which we were getting documentation the districts are supposed to provide for us,” explained Callahan “We were getting data that was blacked out and we were like we can't protect this student when we don't know who this student is."

The TEA already successfully lobbied for subpoena power last session, pointing to a troubling trend attributed to the rise of social media communication.

“Those types of interactions should take through a district site or an app where it can be controlled and monitored,” said Dallas ISD Police Chief Craig Miller.

He says it's a good idea to toughen up the rules on communication on-line and over text, adding to the training teachers in many districts already receive.

“Whenever there's a sex act that we believe takes place between a student and a teacher or an improper relationship, we've got to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t take place, and it's not tolerated,” said Miller.

The TEA will also recommend legislators would consider expanding the definition of an ‘improper relationship,’ which is a felony, to relationships that occur between a young person and a teacher, even if the teacher works in a different district.

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