by Ramón Medina

In recent years, TEA has progressively investigated and the news media has increasingly reported, with scandalous headlines, allegations of educator and student relationships. Not surprisingly, the Texas Legislature is now addressing the matter. On March 8, 2017, the Senate unanimously passed SB:7. As amended, SB:7 would:
(a) Apply to teacher, teacher intern or teacher trainee, librarian, educational aide, administrator, educational diagnostician, school counselor, audiologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, physician, nurse, school psychologist, associate school psychologist, licensed professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, social worker, or speech language pathologist, regardless of whether the employee holds the appropriate certificate, permit, license, or credential for the position;
(b) Apply to the positions identified in (a) above even if the student is enrolled in a school other than the public or private elementary or secondary school at which the employee works;
(c) Require campus principals to notify the superintendent not later than the seventh day after the date: (1) Of an educator’s termination of employment or resignation following an alleged incident of misconduct described in Tex. Ed. Code §21.006; or (2) The principal knew about an educator’s criminal record.
(d) Require the superintendent to notify SBEC of the matters reported by a campus principal (see (c) above) or as “otherwise learn[ed]” within seven (7) days from the date that such matters are learned;
(e) Make it a Class A misdemeanor for superintendents and campus principals to knowingly fail to file the required report by the date required or a state jail felony if it is shown during the trial that the superintendent or principal intended to conceal an educator’s criminal record or alleged incident of misconduct;
(f) Authorize SBEC to suspend or revoke an educator’s certification, sanction an educator or refuse to issue a certificate to an educator if the educator assists a person obtain employment at a school¹ and he/she knew that the other person had been previously engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor or student;
(g) Require the adoption of “a written policy concerning electronic communications between a school employee and a student enrolled in the district”; and
(h) Require TRS to “suspend payments of an annuity to a person who is not eligible to receive a service retirement annuity.”

Although SB:7 has yet to pass the Texas House and be signed by the Governor, school districts should review existing policies, procedures and practices to ensure that current law is properly addressed.²

1 This statutory requirement does not apply to “the routine transmission of administrative and personnel files.”
2 As of the date that this newsletter was published, the Public Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Educator Quality of the House of Representatives scheduled SB:7 in a public hearing for March 27, 2017.