The Texas Legislature passed, and the Governor recently signed, Senate Bill 7 in an attempt to address what many have come to view as an epidemic of inappropriate relationships between educators and students. This piece of legislation, which becomes effective on September 1, 2017, is one of the most talked about coming out of this legislative session. It is imperative that administrators pay close attention to this law and the topic it covers. Your certificate may depend on it.
Following is a bullet point list of the significant additions to the law in this area:
- The principal must notify the superintendent not later than the seventh business day after the date of an educator’s termination of employment or resignation following an alleged incident of misconduct or the principal knew about an educator’s criminal record.
- The superintendent must now notify the State Board for Educator Certification (“SBEC”) by filing a report with the board not later than the seventh business day after the date the superintendent receives a report from a principal.
- Immunity is still provided for reports made in good faith.
- An educator is now prohibited from inappropriate behavior with any student known to be enrolled in any public or private primary or secondary school.
- Mandatory reporting by a superintendent to SBEC under 21.006(b)(2) is now triggered by termination and evidence of wrongdoing rather than termination based on evidence of wrongdoing.
- The superintendent must complete an investigation of any allegation involving abuse, unlawful acts, romantic relationships, or sexual contact with a student or minor and report it to SBEC even if the educator is terminated or leaves the district.
- Requires notice to parents of a student with whom an educator is alleged to have engaged in misconduct involving abuse, an unlawful act, romantic relationship, or sexual contact.
- Although districts currently have policies in place regarding staff/student electronic communications, the policy must now have a provision that staff personal phone numbers and email addresses are not required to be disclosed.
- SBEC is now authorized to impose administrative penalties of up to $10,000 against principals and/or superintendents who fail to comply with the reporting requirements.
- Failure to comply with the reporting requirements with the intent to conceal an educator’s criminal record or alleged incident of misconduct is punishable as a state jail felony.
- Applicants must now disclose if they have even been charged with having an inappropriate relationship with a student.
- If a certified employee assists an educator who has had an inappropriate relationship with a student in gaining employment in another district, that employee’s certificate may be revoked.
- If an educator is convicted of a felony involving an inappropriate relationship, it prohibits TRS payments.
If you would like more information on this topic or seek a review of your district’s policies or procedures regarding this new law, please do not hesitate to contact one of the attorneys at Leasor Crass, P.C.