IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TEACHER AND STUDENT

Sex between teachers and students in Texas has been labeled an epidemic.  While that is debatable, it is certainly more common than it used to be for us to see teacher’s being arrested on the nightly news. Under Texas law, a sexual relationship between an educator and a student is prohibited. Texas law can punish a person convicted of an improper relationship with a student by placing that person in prison for up to 20 years and fining a person up to $10,000.00. An educator can be convicted of an improper relationship with a student even if the relationship is consensual and even if the student is over 17 years old.

If you or someone you know is suspected of having an improper relationship with a student or teacher, they should immediately speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

What does Texas Law say about Improper Relationships between Educators and Students?

Texas Penal Code Sec. 21.12 is the specific law that prohibits improper relationships between teachers and students in Texas:

Sec. 21.12. IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT.

(a) An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee:

  1. engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works;
  2. holds a certificate or permit issued as provided by Subchapter B, Chapter 21, Education Code, or is a person who is required to be licensed by a state agency as provided by Section 21.003(b), Education Code, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:
    (A) enrolled in a public primary or secondary school in the same school district as the school at which the employee works; or
    (B) a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if:
    (i) students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity; and
    (ii) the employee provides education services to those participants; or
  3. engages in conduct described by Section 33.021, with a person described by Subdivision (1), or a person the employee knows is a person described by Subdivision (2)(A) or (B), regardless of the age of that person.

(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
(b-1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:

  1. the actor was the spouse of the enrolled person at the time of the offense; or
  2. the actor was not more than three years older than the enrolled person and, at the time of the offense, the actor and the enrolled person were in a relationship that began before the actor’s employment at a public or private primary or secondary school.

(c) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or both sections.
(d) The name of a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school and involved in an improper relationship with an educator as provided by Subsection (a) may not be released to the public and is not public information under Chapter 552, Government Code.

The Improper Relationship Law Applies Broadly in Texas

It’s important to note that this law applies to any employee of a public or private secondary or primary school having a relationship with any student of that school or school district. The law also does not require that the student be enrolled in that specific teacher’s class. The law broadly applies to any employee and any student in the same school or district. The law also applies to an educator having an improper relationship with a student who is a participant in any activity sponsored by the educator’s school or school district.

Are College Professors Subject To This Law?

Because this law only prohibits relationships between students and educators in secondary and primary schools, it does not apply to post-secondary school relationships. Colleges and Universities typically have their own internal rules prohibiting these types of relationships, but this type of relationship is not a criminal offense in Texas.

In general, under the Texas Penal Code, any improper relationship between a student and a teacher at a secondary or primary school could to an arrest for a second-degree felony.

What Type of Relationship or Conduct is “Improper” Under this Law?

According to Texas Penal Code 21.12 (a) (1), the following acts are prohibited between a teacher and student:

  • sexual contact,
  • sexual intercourse, or
  • deviate sexual intercourse.

Other actions between a student and teacher in regards to a relationship may exist (e.g. non-sexual love letters, private phone calls and spending time outside of school privately). If these actions do not rise to the level of sexual contact, intercourse or deviate intercourse, then they may not violate the law, but they could be used as evidence in a later prosecution. Additionally, while an educator may not be violating Texas law regarding these actions, they still may be in violation of a schools particular code of conduct or internal rules regulating the actions of that school’s educators.

Also, while the actions of the educator may not specifically violate Texas Penal Code 21.12, his/her actions may be in violation of other Penal Code provisions (for example, Online Solicitation of a Minor among others).

If suspected of or charged with in improper relationship with a student, a person should seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A person may think that their actions do not constitute an improper relationship, but our attorneys can evaluate the case to determine if so and if not whether a person’s actions might be in violation of other laws.

Can an Educator be in Violation of this Law if the Conduct Occurs Outside of Normal School Hours?

The improper relationship law does not require that the conduct occur during school hours. An improper relationship between an educator and student can occur anytime between a student and educator as long as each actor is an active and current student or educator.

Does the Improper Relationship Have to Take Place on Campus?

An improper relationship between an educator and student can take place anywhere in Texas. It’s not necessary that the prohibited acts occur on school or school district property or even in the county in which the school district is situated. However, the place of the alleged offense will dictate the jurisdiction of the court.

What if a Student is an Adult under Texas law and is Consenting to the Relationship?

This is the most common situation that lands Texas educators in serious trouble. The law is clear as to the fact that regardless of a student’s age and consent, a sexual relationship between an educator and student at a primary or secondary school is prohibited. It does not matter whether the student is 16, 17, or 18 years old. The gravamen of the offense is the relationship between the parties as student and educator.

What Can Happen to a Teacher if He or She is Convicted of Having an Improper Relationship with a Student?

A person convicted of this offense faces anywhere from 2 to 20 years in a Texas Prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. While a person might be eligible for probation, recent cases have shown even first time offenders being sentenced to time in prison. This is why it is absolutely necessary that a person facing a charge of having an improper relationship with a student needs an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Barnett Howard and Williams have the experience and reputation necessary to advocate for the best possible solution for a person charged with this offense.

Are There Defenses to Being Prosecuted for an Improper Relationship with a Student?

Yes, there are defense that can apply to a charge of Improper Relationship Between an Educator and a Student. The attorneys at Barnett Howard and Williams know that there are some specific defenses to this law. Primarily, the relationship can be legally permissible if the educator and student were married when the sexual relationship occurred. Also, a relationship can be legally permissible if the relationship began before the teacher accepted employment with the school and there is no more than three years difference between the student and teacher.

There may be other general defenses available as well. Our attorneys can evaluate the case and determine if other defenses exist and whether they apply to your situation.

Why Does it Matter What Firm I Hire to Represent Me on an Improper Relationship with a Student Case?

You need a local criminal defense firm that has proven to be effective, and also knows the seriousness of all of the potential consequences you are facing. Allegations of an improper relationship between a student and teacher can lead to the teacher losing his/her job and teaching license. It also comes with a certain amount of public humiliation as news agencies report on the case relentlessly, and can ultimately result in the destruction of a person’s family and finances, as well as the serious legal consequences.

You also need a firm that genuinely cares about you and your case. The attorneys at Barnett Howard and Williams put our stock in building relationships with our clients as both attorney and counselor. While we work extremely hard on your case, we also know that there is immense value in learning as much as possible about who you are. We feel that the “good” in a person is always something that is constantly overlooked by the system. That’s why we emphasize constant open communication and building close relationships with our clients.

Free Consultation with a Sexual Offense Defense Attorney

If you are being investigated for or have been charged with having an improper relationship with a student, call the criminal defense team at Barnett Howard & Williams at (817) 993-9249. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge and experience understanding these types of cases and will fight to protect you and your rights. With offices in Fort Worth, Keller, and Grapevine, we stand ready to help you today.

FORT WORTH

Primary Location
209 W. 8th St
Fort Worth, TX 76102
817.993.9249

KELLER

*By Appointment Only
204 S. Main St #195
Keller, Texas 76248
817.482.6770

RELATED POSTS