Reporting Educator Misconduct – “Who, What & When” as of September 1, 2017
The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 7 (“SB 7”) this summer in an effort to address the increasing number of inappropriate relationships between educators and students being reported. The legislation, which became effective on September 1, 2017, included significant changes to the requirements for reporting educator misconduct found in Section 21.006 of the Texas Education Code.
Principal to Superintendent
Prior to the passage of SB 7, TEC 21.006 required a “superintendent or director of a school district, open-enrollment charter school, regional education service center, or shared services arrangement” to report certain acts of misconduct to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). SB 7 added TEC 21.006(b-2), expanding the applicability of the law to the campus level in two instances.
As of September 1, 2017, principals are now required to notify the superintendent (not SBEC) no later than the seventh business day after the date the principal obtains information about the criminal record of an educator employed by or seeking employment by the district by a means other than the criminal history clearinghouse established under Section 411.0845 Government Code.
Additionally, principals are now required to notify the superintendent (not SBEC) no later than the seventh business day after the date of an educator’s termination or resignation following an alleged incident of misconduct that is described in TEC 21.006(b)(1). This list (which should already be familiar to superintendents) includes:
- abuse or another unlawful act with a student or minor;
- a romantic relationship with or solicitation of or engaging in sexual contact with a student or minor;
- possession, transfer, sale, or distribution of a controlled substance, as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, or by 21 U.S.C. Section 801 et seq.;
- the illegal transfer, appropriation, or expending of funds or other property of the school district;
- an attempt by fraudulent or unauthorized means to obtain or alter a professional certificate or license for the purpose of promotion or additional compensation;
- a criminal offense or any part of a criminal offense on school property or at a school-sponsored event; or
- conduct that violates the assessment instrument security procedures established under Texas Education Code Section 39.0301.
As written, the new law does not provide any exceptions for circumstances in which the superintendent is already aware of the information that the principal is required to report. Regardless of whether this was intentional or the result of a legislative oversight, at this time we strongly encourage principals to err on the side of caution and file a report even when doing so may appear redundant.
Superintendent to SBEC
Under the revised law, superintendents must still report to SBEC not later than seven business days after learning about an educator’s termination or resignation following an alleged incident of misconduct described by TEC 21.006(b) or learning about an educator’s criminal record. However, SB 7 amended TEC 21.006(c) to include a third reporting trigger. Consequently, superintendents must also make a SBEC report not later than seven business days after receiving a report from a principal, as described above. Again, there does not appear to be any exceptions for incidents in which the superintendent already knew (or already reported on) the information conveyed by the principal’s report.
Superintendents should also be aware of another seemingly minor tweak made by SB 7 that could have major implications. Prior to September 1, 2017, TEC 21.006(b)(2) required notification if an educator was terminated or resigned based on evidence that the educator engaged in misconduct. SB7 broadened this provision to now require notification if an educator is terminated or resigned and there is evidence that the educator engaged in the described misconduct. In other words, the actual basis of the employment action is no longer determinative as to whether the report must be filed.
District to Parent or Guardian
Senate Bill 7 also added Section 21.0061, which requires a district to notify the parent or guardian of a student with whom an educator allegedly engaged in abuse or an inappropriate relationship as soon as feasible after the district becomes aware the alleged misconduct may have occurred. Under the new law, the notice must inform the parent or guardian 1) that the alleged misconduct occurred, 2) whether the educator resigned or was terminated in light of an investigation, and 3) whether a report was submitted to SBEC concerning the alleged misconducted.
All District Employees
Finally, employees should be reminded that these reporting requirements are in addition to, and do not replace, their existing legal obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect to law enforcement or Child Protective Services within 48 hours.
It is critical that District personnel understand and comply with these mandates. While current law already allows SBEC to impose sanctions on superintendents for failing to provide required notice, SB 7 extends the allowable sanctions to principals who fail to provide notice to the superintendent. An administrative penalty of between $500 and $10,000 is added for superintendents or principals who fail to provide timely notice. Additionally, failure to provide timely notice with an intent to conceal an educator’s criminal record or alleged incident of misconduct is a state jail felony. If you have any questions about these new and revised requirements, please do not hesitate to contact the school attorneys at Leasor Crass, P.C.