For the 10th year in a row, the number of Texas teachers accused of having romantic relationships with students has increased, driven in part by a law adopted in 2017.
The Texas Education Agency reported 429 cases of improper relationships through the fiscal year that ended September 1. That's a 42 percent increase over last year.
The TEA's lead investigator Doug Phillips told the Senate Education Committee this week that much of the increase is due to Senate Bill 7. Superintendents and principals who fail to report teacher misconduct face a $10,000 fine or up to two years in jail.
“The second part of this bill was to encourage more reporting and to clarify for superintendents what needs to be reported,” said Phillips. “I think we're just getting a lot more reports that maybe would not have been reported in the past.”
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R- Houston, called it a positive development. “What gets measured gets fixed, and we're not finding the extent of the problem.”
Lawmakers next session will look to expand reporting even further to include non-certified staff, janitors and others.
“As long as they're certified TEA has authority,” said Phillips. “Once they're no longer certified or if they're never certified, there is no authority as far as being able to warn private schools or even our public schools that the person is moving from one district to the next.”