What Happens If a Teacher Starts a Relationship with a Student?
In Texas, the law clearly defines what is and what is not an appropriate relationship between a school official and a student. Under the definition of Texas law, an inappropriate relationship between an educator and a student involves any kind of sexual contact. Once sexual contact is initiated, the relationship between the two individuals crosses the legal line.
Additionally, Texas law mandates that charges and penalties be applied to an educator who engages in sex with a student who is 18 years of age. Despite the student being technically of legal age, Texas law outlaws inappropriate relationships between teachers and students because of the influence and power that the teacher has over the student at the time.
Violations of this Texas law are witnessed in a number of recent cases highlighted by the media. These cases demonstrate the potential penalties that can be imposed on teachers and school officials who are found to enter into and continue sexual relationships with students.
The Frankton ISD Case
The Frankton ISD case involved a sexual relationship between a female teacher and several underage students. In this case, the teacher, Rachel Bauer, admitted to having sex with students ranging in age from 14 to 17. She also exchanged explicit photos and messages with them that eluded to the sexual relationships they were having with each other.
After she was found out to have sexual contact with minor students, Bauer pleaded guilty to one count of an improper relationship with children. She also pleaded guilty to one count of felony sexual assault of a child.
The investigation into the case began after the police were tipped off in 2014. After she pleaded guilty to the charges, Bauer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for improper relationships with minor students. She also received 10 years of adjudication probation for the sexual assault charge. She will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life, and she also lost her certification as a teacher.
The Abilene ISD Case
The Abilene ISD case revolved around a sexual relationship between Michael Trook, a teacher at Holland Medical High School, and a 17-year old student. After he was discovered to be engaging in sex with the student, Trook pleaded guilty of one count of improper relationhip between a teacher and a student.
After he pleaded guilty to this charge, the court agreed to drop the second degree felony charge in exchange for the guilty plea. Trook was sentenced to 15 days in jail and deferred probation for 10 years.
He also had to forfeit his teaching license in the state of Texas in order to avoid a two to 20-year prison sentence for a second degree felony conviction. He does not have to register as a sex offender because the student was 17 years old at the time of the inappropriate relationship.
Penalties for Inappropriate Teacher-Student Sexual Relationships
Texas state law defines an inappropriate sexual relationship between a teacher and a student as a second degree felony. It can be punished by:
- Two to 10 years in prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Community service
Additionally, educators who are found guilty of this offense often face losing their professional license and being terminated from their teaching positions. They may find it difficult to procure future employment in any field even if they move out of the state in which they were convicted.
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In addition to being charged with an inappropriate relationship or sexual assault, educators can also face additional charges in Texas. In particular, they could be charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child or improper photography or visual recording of a minor.
These charges bring with them their own punishments under federal and state laws in Texas. Teachers could be sentenced to lengthier terms in jail and pay even higher fines as a result.
Exception to Prosecution
In rare instances, prosecutors may decline to charge a teacher with sexual assault or inappropriate relationship with a minor student. For example, an educator could avoid being punished if he or she were married to the student at the time of the relationship. Even so, this circumstance only applies if the teacher is no more than three years older than the student.
Additionally, a teacher may avoid prosecution and punishment if the relationship began before the teacher’s employment as an educator. However, the teacher and student must be able to prove the timeline of their relationship in this circumstance if the teacher hopes to avoid being charged and punished.
Getting Legal Help
If you find yourself charged with this crime, you need to hire a lawyer who is experienced in fighting improper relationship charges in court. A skilled sex crimes attorney will be able to devise an effective strategy for proving your innocence.
You could have the advantage in court because a sex crimes lawyer will have the experience needed to provide a solid defense to the judge or jury. Your attorney will be a convincing asset to convince the jury to vote in your favor.
Texas carefully defines what kind of a relationship you can have with your students as an educator. Teachers found guilty of having sex with students face severe penalties like expensive civil fines and prison sentences. You can avoid these punishments and defend yourself in court by hiring an experienced sex crimes attorney to represent you in a sexual assault or inappropriate relationship with a student case.