85(R) - 2017
House Public Education
House Public Education
Relating to the improper relationships between educators and students; creating a criminal offense and expanding the applicability of an existing offense.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
Current law already prohibits improper relationships between students and employees of a primary or secondary school. SB 7 seeks to clarify the applicability of the current law, add new reporting requirements, and hold school administrators accountable.
This bill would require principals to notify their superintendent, and superintendents to the State Board of Education, if they knew or should have known about an employee’s past criminal record or misconduct as well as if that employee was terminated or resigned following an alleged incident of misconduct. If they assist a person in obtaining employment under these circumstances they could have their certificates revoked. An attempt to conceal this information would be punishable by either a Class A misdemeanor or a state jail felony. One other new provision would be the potential revocation of an individual's teaching certificate if they were placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for certain offenses.
SB 7 would also add new continuing education requirements for teachers covering appropriate relationships and communication with students and for principals on how to prevent, recognize, and report prohibited sexual conduct between educators and students.
Finally this bill would require school districts to adopt a written policy governing electronic communication between school employees and students and would keep all employee evaluations confidential except they may be used for disciplinary proceedings or in cases of alleged misconduct.
Vote Recommendation Notes
As was reported toward the end of 2016, the TEA has investigated nearly 222 cases of improper relationships in the last fiscal year. In many cases the improper relationships started over electronic communication, and in some cases school districts were not being as cooperative as they should be. Having districts write out a formal protocol on electronic communication is good policy. The other clauses that seek to hold school officials accountable if they knowingly conceal an employee’s misconduct are also good policies.
This bill promotes our liberty principle of Limited Government, because keeping students safe is well within the proper role of government. This bill also upholds our liberty principle of Personal Responsibility by holding principals accountable if they don't properly vet their employees, or if they knowingly conceal an employees' past criminal history.
Though this bill makes progress towards resolving an issue local governments have been unable to fix on their own, it does so in a manner that still leaves room for improvement. Basing rules and accountability metrics on something someone "should have known" is a standard that will likely cause more problems, so we recommend amending the bill to remove that language. We also have concerns with convicting someone of a Class A misdemeanor because they failed to file a report within a seven day window. For these reasons, we do recommend the bill be amended, however still support the bill and the goal it seeks to achieve.