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Texas Leads Nation in Inappropriate Student-Teacher Relationships

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A Headline from the  Dallas Morning News on Thursday read, "Irving high school teacher accused of having a romantic relationship with student, police say."

It might be a shocking headline, but it's sadly not a rare one. Texas leads all other states in the number of cases of teachers charged with or found guilty of inappropriate sexual relationships with students.

According to the The Texas Education Agency, the group has opened more than  70 investigations into this since September. There has been a steady increase over the last few years. There were 141 alleged cases in the 2009-10 school year, and the number rose to 179 cases in the 2013-14 school year.

Terry Abbott, former Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education, a former Houston ISD official, and now Chairman of  Drive West Communications, which tracks reports of teacher-student sex crimes, says the problem in Texas is escalating.

"Texas has far and away the biggest problem in the country. We tracked in 2014, 116 cases of school employees involved in inappropriate relationships with students. That's more than twice as many as any other state," Abbott says. "The closest state to Texas was Pennsylvania with only 45. Texas has an extreme problem in this area. I'd call it a crisis."

Abbott points to social media as one factor for the increase in inappropriate relationships. "That's where so many of these cases begin. When a teacher sends a student a text message in the middle of the night, or a Facebook message that parents and administrators at the school don't know anything about."

Social media is not something that's going to go away. And as investigations into inappropriate relationships continue to rise in Texas, Abbott says there are steps individuals can take to keep it from happening.

"First of all we need to see, and I think we are seeing in some cases, school districts take a much harder line on these cases. Beginning with adopting new policies that prohibit private electronic messaging between teachers and students. That would be the place to start," he says. "But legislators need to play a role too. We need to see minimum penalties for teachers and other school employees involved in these cases. We're seeing far too many cases in which teachers and other school employees accused of sexually assaulting children getting off without any jail time at all, they're getting probation."

 

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.