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Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student

The Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student crime in the state of Texas gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you are an employee of a primary or secondary school and you engaged in sexual contact with or the online solicitation of a student at your school, a student in the same school district, or a student participating in an educational activity sponsored by a school. There are, however, several limitations to this offense, and the law was updated in 2017 with the passage of S.B. 7. Learn more detailed information about the Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student offense below.

There law that covers offenses prior to September 1, 2017, describes three different ways in which a school employee can be charged with this offense. Subsection (a)(1) prohibits sexual contact between employees and students where the employee works. Subsection (a)(2) prohibits sexual contact between members of the certified members of the “helping professions” licensed under Education Code Section 21.003(b) and students the person knows attend school in the same school district or particpates in school sponsored activities in the same school district or the person provides services to the student. Subsection (a)(3) prohibits school employees from engaging in Online Solicitation of a Minor under the same circumstances described by Subsections (a) and (b).

Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student is classified in the Texas Penal Code under Title 5 “Offenses Against The Person”, Chapter 21 “Sexual Offenses.”

Have you been charged with Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student? Call criminal lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

The new law expands the coverage of subsection (a)(2) to include people who are uncertificated members of the helping professions, adds coverage to private schools, eliminates the requirement that the employee provide education services to participants in activities and that they are in the same school district. The law is discussed in more detail below.

What is the law in Texas about Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student?

The Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student offense is described in Section 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code. The law was updated with S.B. 7, and the new law that will be in effect beginning September 1, 2017, follows the old law. The old in effect until September 1, 2017 (and covering all offenses alleged to have occurred prior to that date) is as follows:

(a) An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee:

(1) engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works;

(2) holds a certificate or permit issued as provided by Subchapter B, Chapter 21, Education Code, or is a person who is required to be licensed by a state agency as provided by Section 21.003(b), Education Code, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:

(A) enrolled in a public primary or secondary school in the same school district as the school at which the employee works; or

(B) a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if:

(i) students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity; and

(ii) the employee provides education services to those participants; or

(3) engages in conduct described by Section 33.021, with a person described by Subdivision (1), or a person the employee knows is a person described by Subdivision (2)(A) or (B), regardless of the age of that person.

The law that will be in effect beginning September 1, 20171, is as follows:2

(a) An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee:

(1) engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works;

(2) holds a position described by Section 21.003(a) or (b), Education Code, regardless of whether the employee holds the appropriate certificate, permit, license, or credential for the position, a certificate or permit issued as provided by Subchapter B, Chapter 21, Education Code, or is a person who is required to be licensed by a state agency as provided by Section 21.003(b), Education Code, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:

(A) enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school, other than a school described by Subdivision (1) in the same school district as the school at which the employee works; or

(B) a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if :(i) students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity; and (ii) the employee provides education services to those participants; or

(3) engages in conduct described by Section 33.021, with a person described by Subdivision (1), or a person the employee knows is a person described by Subdivision (2)(A) or (B), regardless of the age of that person.

How can I be charged with Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student?

You can be charged with Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 21.12(a) as described in the section above have been met.

What age differences are prohibited?

Subsection (b-1)(2) provides an affirmative defense that would allow you to avoid conviction if you can show that you were “not more than three years older” than the student, and at the time that the sexual activity took place, you and the student were in a relationship that began before your employment at the school.

What is the punishment for Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student?

A conviction for Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student is punished as a Felony of the Second Degree,1 with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and prison time of up to 20 years. Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors


Legal References:

1Senate Bill 7, 85th Texas Legislature, Sections 18 & 22

2Penal Code Section 21.12(a), as amended by Senate Bill 7, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 1, effective September 1, 2017

3 Texas Penal Code Section 21.12(b)

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