The following was included in TCTA's 2019-20 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2019 but is subject to change. The information below is for information purposes only, and is not intended to substitute for advice from an attorney. TCTA members with legal questions should call 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.

Teachers are perceived as role models in the community, and the laws and regulations that mandate appropriate standards of conduct reflect that expectation. Failure to comply with these standards can lead to adverse employment action, certification sanctions and criminal consequences. 

Sexual relationships with students

Sexual contact or indecent exposure with a minor is a felony that requires the perpetrator to register as a sex offender. It also is a felony for any school district employee to engage in a sexual relationship with a student, even if that student is of the legal age of consent. This prohibition includes students enrolled in schools where the teacher is not employed. A person who is a member of the Teacher Retirement System and is convicted of certain felonies that involve sexual abuse of a student or minor will be ineligible to receive a service retirement annuity from the retirement system.

In 2019, lawmakers responded to concerns about educator misconduct by mandating that the Texas Education Agency shall maintain and make available through an internet portal a registry of persons not eligible for employment in a school district, district of innovation, open-enrollment charter school, or other charter entity, education service center, or shared services arrangement. Private schools are provided access to the registry.

Furthermore, new law provides that the person who is the subject of a report alleging specified misconduct (the person was terminated or resigned and there is evidence the person abused or committed an unlawful act with a student or minor or was involved in a romantic relationship or solicited or engaged in sexual contact with a student or minor) is entitled to a hearing on the merits of the allegations. In the event that a report of alleged misconduct is sent by the superintendent or equivalent to TEA, they shall promptly send notification that the person has 10 days to request a hearing and provide a written response. 

If the person does not submit a written response to show cause why the commissioner should not pursue an investigation, the agency will make available through an online portal information indicating that the person is under investigation for alleged misconduct. If the person does not request a hearing in a timely fashion, the commissioner shall make a determination as to alleged misconduct based on the report submitted to TEA. If the commissioner determines that the person engaged in the described misconduct, the person will be added to the do-not-hire registry. If the person requests a hearing and the final decision determines that the person did not engage in the alleged misconduct, the agency will immediately remove from the portal the information indicating the person is under investigation for alleged misconduct.

A school district must complete an investigation into allegations of educator misconduct, even if the educator resigns from the school district. School districts must notify the parent or guardian of a student with whom an educator allegedly engaged in an improper relationship, regardless of whether the educator resigned or was terminated.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act prohibits school employees from aiding another school employee in obtaining a new job if there is probable cause to believe there has been sexual misconduct with a minor or student. Applicants for many school district positions must submit a pre-employment affidavit disclosing a charge, adjudication or conviction based on an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

If an individual is found to have engaged in sexual conduct or a romantic relationship with a student or minor, regardless of age or enrollment status in the district, the State Board for Educator Certification will permanently revoke that educator’s teaching certificate.

Solicitation of a romantic relationship

Solicitation of a sexual or romantic relationship with a student also can result in adverse employment action and certificate sanctions, even if the relationship is not ultimately consummated. 

The criminal prohibition of online solicitation of a minor includes communications between an employee at a school and a student. A person commits this offense if they knowingly solicit a minor to meet with another person with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact with the person. Conviction of online solicitation of a minor is a felony.

SBEC may sanction the teaching certificate of an individual who has engaged in deliberate or repeated acts that can be reasonably interpreted as soliciting a sexual or romantic relationship. Prohibited acts include, but are not limited to:

  • Communications tending to show that the educator solicited a romantic relationship with the student;
  • Making inappropriate comments about a student’s body;
  • Making sexually demeaning comments to a student;
  • Making comments about a student’s potential sexual performance;
  • Requesting details of a student’s sexual history;
  • Requesting a date;
  • Engaging in conversations regarding the sexual problems, preferences or fantasies of either party;
  • Inappropriate hugging, kissing or excessive touching;
  • Suggesting that a romantic relationship is desired after the student graduates, including post-graduation plans for dating or marriage; and
  • Providing the student with drugs or alcohol.

Educators should take care to avoid situations in which professional boundaries become poorly defined. Inviting students to your home, meeting them for social activities that are not school-sponsored, or developing personal relationships with them can create the perception of inappropriate conduct. Avoid such situations with students in the absence of previously existing social relationships with them. 

Suspected child abuse

An educator who believes that any student or minor may be a victim of sexual abuse is required to make a report to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services within 48 hours of becoming aware of the possibility of the abuse. This responsibility may not be delegated to someone else, and failure to make the required report is a criminal offense. For more information, see page 33.

See also:

Online Contact With Students

Laws that impact the student-to-student relationship

Tips for New Teachers

Texting Your Way into Trouble: How to Keep Your Relationships with Students Professional (TCTA members must log in to view this online CPE video for 1.25 hours of CPE credit.)

Navigating the Minefield of Teacher-Student Interaction (TCTA members must log in to view this online CPE video for 1 hour of CPE credit.)