The following was included in TCTA's 2017-18 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2017 but is subject to change. The information below is for information purposes only, and is not intended to substitute for advice from an attorney.

Sexual assault

A student who is the victim of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault by another student at the same campus must, upon parental request, be transferred to a different campus than the offender or to a neighboring school district. If the victim chooses not to transfer, the board must transfer the offender to a different campus, or an alternative education program (AEP) or juvenile justice alternative education program (JJAEP), if there is only one campus in the district at that grade level.

Sexting

Electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting a minor via a practice commonly referred to as “sexting” is a criminal offense. A minor commits an offense by knowingly possessing or promoting by electronic means to another minor, visual material that depicts a minor engaging in sexual contact (which is broadly defined and may include some forms of nudity), if the actor produced the visual material or knew that another minor produced it. 

A school administrator who possesses the visual material in good faith due to an allegation of the offense of electronic transmission of material depicting a minor has a defense to the crime of possession of child pornography. To rely on that defense, the school administrator must allow law enforcement or other school administrators to access the material only as appropriate and take reasonable steps to destroy the material within an appropriate period. Since the defense applies only to administrators or law enforcement officials, teachers and other employees should avoid taking custody of such material and should call an administrator to deal with the material or device.

The law also requires the development of programs that districts can use to address the legal, professional and social consequences of sexting and make available to parents and students in a grade level the district considers appropriate. 

Newly adopted legislation approved in 2017 states that a student may be placed in DAEP or expelled for releasing or threatening to release intimate visual material of a minor or of an adult student without the student’s consent. 

New reporting requirements

David’s Law states that an employee designated by the principal, other than the counselor, may make a report to the school district police department or local law enforcement if, after an investigation is completed, the principal has reasonable grounds to believe that a student has engaged in conduct that constitutes an assault or criminal harassment by repeated electronic communications. A reporting person may include the name and address of each student the person believes may have participated in the conduct. A person who makes this report is immune from civil or criminal liability or discipline resulting from the report. 

Sexual harassment

The law pertaining to student-to-student sexual harassment states that sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. 

A parent may sue a school district under Title IX for student-to-student sexual harassment if severe, persistent and highly offensive sexual misconduct impedes a student’s access to the benefits of an education, and the school district, with actual knowledge of the harassment, acted unreasonably in failing to stop the misconduct. Because of this, school employees should pay attention to the following:

  • School district policies prohibiting peer sexual harassment require that employees who have knowledge of non-minor sexual harassment must report the conduct to a principal or to the district’s Title IX coordinator. Most policies do not distinguish “minor” from “non-minor” misconduct. Therefore, if any question exists, an employee should report as required to a principal or preferably to the Title IX coordinator.
  • Sexual harassment can occur among students of the same or opposite gender. Some district policies define sexual harassment to include sexual misconduct directed at a student solely on the basis of orientation.
  • An educator is required to report sexual harassment, even if the victim asks the educator to not report it. 

If peer harassment rises to the level of child abuse, failure to report such abuse to Child Protective Services within 48 hours by calling 800-252-5400 may put a teacher in legal and employment jeopardy. Even failure to report as required by district policy could expose a teacher to a reprimand, or worse.

Dating violence

Each district must adopt and implement a dating violence policy as part of its district improvement plan. The policy must contain a definition of dating violence that includes intentional use of physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse to harm, threaten, intimidate or control another person in a dating relationship. The policy must address safety planning, enforcement of protective orders, alternatives to protective orders, training for teachers and administrators, counseling for students and awareness education.

The law allows a juvenile court to defer criminal adjudication proceedings in a case of dating violence to allow the juvenile to attend a 12-week teen dating violence court program designed to educate children who engage in dating violence and encourage them to refrain from the conduct. 

See also:

Bullying

Child Abuse Reporting Requirements

Sexting Between Students