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Texas Laws Regarding Improper Student-Educator Relationships

Improper Student-Educator Relationships: The Laws in Texas

In Texas, the relationships between students and their teachers are supposed to remain professional and educational. If a grade school student and a teacher enter into a physical or sexual relationship, criminal charges may apply.

While these laws typically apply to situations involving relationships between adults and minors, these laws are distinct from criminal statutes regarding illegal sexual activity based on age. In Texas, a person can be arrested and charged with a crime if they are a teacher having an inappropriate relationship with a student, even if that student is legally an adult.

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When Relationships Become Illegal

According to Section 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code, a person may violate the law if they are an employee of a public or private secondary or primary school and they:

  • Engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled at the secondary or primary school where the employee works

It is also a crime for any licensed educator to engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is:

  • Enrolled at a primary or secondary school in the same school district where the employee works
  • A participant in an educational activity sponsored by the school district where the employee works and the employee provides educational services to students in that activity

This means that a school district employee can be penalized for having sexual contact with any student who is enrolled at their school or in their school district, even if that person is not a student in their particular class. For the most part, any school district employee is prohibited from having any type of sexual activity with any student who is enrolled at their school or in their school district.

This law doesn’t just apply to teachers. Any school employee, from administrators to janitors, is legally prohibited from having any sexual contact with any student enrolled in their school or district.

Defining Legal Terms

There are several types of sexual behavior covered by this particular statute. Specifically, this law applies to sexual contact, sexual intercourse and deviate sexual intercourse. The definitions for these terms is as follows:

  • Sexual contact – Any touching of the breast, anus or any part of the genitals of any person with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person
  • Sexual intercourse – Any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ
  • Deviate sexual intercourse – Any contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person or the penetration of the anus or genitals of another person with an object.

It’s important to explain these terms to make a distinction between different types of prohibited behavior. An educator who engages in any of these actions with a student at their school may be liable to arrest and prosecution under this law. However, other activities, such as kissing, holding hands or inappropriate speech may be covered by other laws or may violate a particular school’s policies.

Legal Penalties

The crime of an improper student-educator relationship in Texas is a felony of the second degree. This is punishable by:

  • Two to 20 years in a Texas state prison facility
  • A fine of up to $10,000

In addition to these penalties, a school employee who is convicted of this crime may also lose their professional license and be banned from working from one or more school districts for a length of time, possibly for the rest of their life.

It’s important to note that additional charges may apply for school employees convicted of this crime. According to Section 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code, a person who is convicted of this offense and also violates another law in that section of the Penal Code may be subject to penalties from Section 21.12, another section or both.

For example, a person who is convicted of both an improper student-educator relationship and the crime of continuous sexual abuse of a young child may face the penalties associated with the first charge, the second charge or both charges. This means that such a person could potentially be convicted of a second-degree felony charge for the first count and a first-degree felony charge for the second count, which is punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

Legal Defenses

In some very specific cases, a school employee who engages in sexual contact with a student at their school may be exempted from prosecution. For example, if the student and the educator are legally married at the time of the sexual contact, they may have a valid defense to prosecution under this charge.

Also, if the school employee is not more than three years older than the student at the time of the offense and they were in a relationship before the educator began working at the school, there may be a valid defense to the charges. If the school employee is more than three years older than the student, they may be subject to penalties under Section 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code in addition to other penalties for being in an illegal relationship with a minor.

If a person is charged with this crime, their criminal defense attorney may try several strategies to fight the charges in court. For example, the lawyer may argue that:

  • The alleged sexual conduct never occurred
  • There is not enough evidence to prove that sexual conduct occurred or to verify the claims of the alleged victim or the prosecution
  • The alleged victim has something to gain by falsely charging the defendant with the crime

If these strategies are successful in court, the charges may be dropped or reduced to a less serious charge.


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