Sex Crimes With Kids: Teachers and Students – It’s a Serious Felony in Texas
Texas made the national news again on Monday, but not in a good way. A CBS News / Associated Press report focused upon a growing trend in sex crime arrests here in Texas, specifically teachers being arrested for having sexual relations with students. Even more specifically, female teachers allegedly having inappropriate (read that “illegal”) relationships with the kids they are responsible for teaching.
Read the story (and look at all 50 of its accompanying photos) in the piece entitled “Texas On Record-Setting Pace For Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships,” published June 5, 2016, on CBSNews.com.
Teacher and Student: Mary Kay LeTourneau’s TV Movie Love Story
Now, we all remember Mary Kay LeTourneau, right? She ended up marrying her former student, Vili Fualaau, after serving a seven (7) year prison sentence for statutory rape under the California sex crime laws. Their relationship began when LeTourneau was the boy’s elementary school teacher. She was married; he was thirteen.
After she was released from prison, the two got hitched. On their ten year wedding anniversary, they were the stars of a Barbara Walters interview.
And their love story was made into a TV movie, starring Penelope Ann Miller as the teacher.
The two are still married today. Presumably, Mary Kay LeTourneau is still a registered sex offender, too.
Teacher – Student Sex Crimes Are Felonies: Accused Teachers Should Expect Arrest and Stigmatization
Mary Kay Letourneau’s story may have been portrayed by some movie publicists (as well as the couple) as a love story where age was just a number and a very mature male student and his female teacher fall in love in some kind of fated, meant-to-be sort of way, but most people don’t see these relationships in that light.
And the police and prosecutors especially do not put any kind of romantic spin on a sexual relationship between a teacher and her (or his) student.
Make no mistake: any kind of sexual relationship between an adult and a minor is illegal in Texas. Doesn’t matter how mature that student may be. Under the Texas Penal Code, any “person younger than 17 years of age” is considered a child under the law.
If allegations are made, that teacher should be prepared for the police at their door and for prosecutors assuming they are “sexual deviants” (to quote the Texas Penal Code).
Texas Penal Code 21.12 – Teacher and Student Sex Crime Law
In fact, a specific statute was passed in 2007 by the Texas Legislature to deal with teacher and student relationships here. It is Texas Penal Code Section 21.12, which states the following (including its latest 2011 amendments) and defines this crime as a second degree felony:
IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT
(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.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
(b-1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:
(1) the actor was the spouse of the enrolled person at the time of the offense; or
(2) the actor was not more than three years older than the enrolled person and, at the time of the offense, the actor and the enrolled person were in a relationship that began before the actor’s employment at a public or private primary or secondary school.
(c) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or both sections.
(d) The name of a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school and involved in an improper relationship with an educator as provided by Subsection (a) may not be released to the public and is not public information under Chapter 552, Government Code.
Possible Sentence Under Texas Teacher-Student Sex Crime Law
Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code defines the punishments provided under the law for violation of criminal statutes. Pursuant to Texas Penal Code 12.33, a second degree felony brings with it a possible sentence of “… imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for any term of not more than 20 years or less than 2 years and (b) in addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the second degree may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.”
So, any teacher found guilty of an improper relationship with a student, as that is defined in Texas Penal Code 21.12 faces between 2 and 20 years behind bars along with a $10,000 fine.
That’s in addition to the social stigma that the person will face after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a student, regardless of whether or not they are innocent and whether or not they are convicted of the crime.
Growing Trend for Teacher Sex Crime Allegations in United States and in Texas
Despite the societal taboo and the felony sentence they risk, there seems to be a growing trend here in Texas for teachers to be accused of having sexual relationships with their underage students. Both male and female teachers are involved here. It’s a trend that is being mirrored all over the country, apparently.
U.S. Female Teachers Involved in a “Sexpidemic’
Consider the information collected by World News Daily (WND) regarding improper teacher-student relationships. This list was initially published two years ago, and was updated on June 1, 2016.
The WND reporters have collected in one article only stories involving female teachers. Just the women here, though male teachers are involved in these types of allegations as well.
In a story headlined, “The Big List: Female Teachers With Students: Most Comprehensive Account On Internet Of Women Predators On Campus,” both female teachers that have been publicly accused of committing a sex crime involving one of their students, as well as female educators who have faced criminal convictions for inappropriate relationships with their students, are tallied.
The list is thirteen pages long, averaging 20 names and news stories per page (didn’t stop to count them all) — or approximately 250 names.
At the Huffington Post, there’s a separate section where HuffPo collects news stories of “Teacher Sex Abuse.” The reports come from all over the country. Both men and women are covered here.
The latest one? Huffington Post’s June 2016 coverage of a Houston teacher who has been arrested for an improper sexual relationship with her student which allegedly included the teacher becoming pregnant by the student and later having an abortion in an attempt to avoid being found out.
And within Texas, we know from this recent CBS / Associated Press coverage that Texas looks to be breaking last year’s record number of inappropriate Teacher-Student relationships. According to the Amarillo Global News, cited in the CBS story, the Texas Education Agency investigated 162 cases during the past school year (between September 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016).
There’s also the article appearing in the February 2015 issue of Texas Monthly, “A Closer Look at the Texas High School Student-Teacher Sex Epidemic.” Even a year ago, this was being called an “epidemic” in the State of Texas.
What’s going on here?
This week, the Dallas Morning News tried to answer the question of what is going on here, with the rising trend of improper Teacher-Student relationships. Claire Ballor of the DMN Crime Blog posited in her June 4 post, entitled “Reports Of Teacher-Student Sex On The Rise In Texas, And Social Media May Be Why,” that the ease of direct communication between student and teacher offer by Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc., may be a contributing factor.
And the ability to communicate directly in a social forum, where teacher and student can socialize one-on-one via social media, has been discussed in various committee meetings held on the subject by the Texas Legislature last fall. (The Texas Legislature is not in session now.)
Lesson: Get Legal Advice if There’s Even a Rumor That You’re a Teacher Involved with a Student
Here’s the thing. Right now, more arrests are being made of teachers, male and female, for having sex with students than ever before. It may truly be a “sexpidemic.”
And this means that there will be defendants needed help from a criminal defense attorney who may never have envisioned they’d ever need a criminal lawyer in their lifetimes. Often, family, friends, and the entire community are shocked by these arrests. Many of these teachers are married, and respected in their profession by their peers and parents, until the sex crime allegation is made.
Another real concern here: there will be teachers and educators in Texas that may be accused of having an improper relationship with a student who are innocent of these charges. Arrests may be made based upon allegations that cannot withstand legal scrutiny and a probable cause hearing.
Nevertheless, these teachers will also face the social stigma of being label a “child predator” and “sexual deviant” merely because they were accused, and despite the fact that they are innocent. Lots of people assume guilt just because of finger-pointing, rumors, and innuendo.
For both, it is vital that these educators get counsel from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as they can. Having criminal defense guidance when there is even a rumor that a teacher has been inappropriate with a student is wise, given the current atmosphere here in Dallas and elsewhere. Witch hunts still happen.
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