Hidden cockroaches may lull us into complacency, but visible ones can be crushed.
Recently released numbers show that investigations of inappropriate sexual relationships between teachers and students have reached all-time highs.
These investigations, conducted by the Texas Education Agency, stem from tips they receive from individuals in the school districts where the incidents occur.
This new record, 429 cases in the 2017-18 school year, represents a 42 percent increase over the previous school year, and a 250 percent increase since the 2008-09 school year, when TEA first began tracking these incidences.
While initially troubling, the uptick in reporting may actually be positive.
Senate Bill 7, authored by Sen. Bettencourt (R–Houston) and passed in 2017, was designed to tackle the issue of inappropriate student-teacher relationships, especially the phenomenon referred to as “passing the trash”—in which disgraced teachers and administrators are passed from one school to another whenever allegations of misconduct are levied against them.
Another goal of the legislation was to cement stronger penalties for failing to report misconduct. Not reporting is now considered a Class A misdemeanor—which is punishable by large fines and possible incarceration—while intentionally concealing criminal misconduct now carries an automatic state jail sentence.
The uptick in incidents reported to the TEA may not be due to more misconduct, but due to incidents that otherwise would not have been reported, now being reported.
Administrators know that the Legislature is watching, and they’re acting like it. Stiffer fines and possible jail time force educrats to be more strident in their efforts to root out inappropriate activity occurring at their schools, and the odds they let misconduct slide are decreasing every day.
Because of SB 7, there is more reporting than ever before. Now, Texans hope what follows is a meaningful decrease in improper student-teacher relationships.