Child advocates and state officials pressed members of the House Public Education Committee to rein in school districts that fail to report teachers accused of improper relationships with students during a May 11, 2016, hearing. 

Experts and Texas Education Agency staff offered recommendations in response to increasing reports of improper student-teacher relationships. 

Between Sept. 1 and March 31, the Texas Education Agency opened investigations on 114 teachers accused of having improper relationships with students, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The agency investigated 85 teachers during the same period last year, putting the state on track to surpass last year’s record number of 188.

A representative from the Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas said rather than conducting their own investigations, school districts should be required to cooperate with investigators from police departments, Child Protective Services and TEA. Other panelists said lawmakers should bar districts from allowing accused teachers to resign quietly, saying that would reduce the chance of those teachers being rehired by other districts.

Lawmakers gave TEA subpoena power Sept. 1 after complaints that some school districts were withholding information during misconduct investigations. On May 11, Doug Phillips, TEA head of investigations, testified that although subpoena power has helped resolve cases quicker, school districts still find loopholes to withhold documents.

Panelists also recommended beefing up teacher training on ethics and proper communication boundaries, as well as creating policies that prohibit unsupervised communication between teachers and students. For more on current guidelines for proper teacher-student behavior, click here.

Lawmakers took no action during the hearing, but may consider new laws when the Legislature convenes in January.