AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 7 into law at the Texas Capitol on Thursday.
SB 7 won unanimous approval from the Texas Legislature with all 30 Senators co-authoring the bill by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston).
Governor Abbott discussed protecting students from predatory teachers during his State of the State Address in January, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick named the issue one of his top 10 legislative priorities and was present.
“A small number of teachers are tarnishing the image of some of our best and brightest teachers,” Governor Abbott said during the bill signing ceremony. “Unbelievably some of these teachers against whom these accusations have been made and been proven have faced no real consequences. “
The Governor added, “Today by signing this law, we’re saying no more are we going to allow that to happen. These teachers with this legislation are going to face losing their job, losing their license, losing their pension as well as the prospects of going to jail.”
The Governor also said administrators who sometimes try to “pass the trash” by sending teachers who engaged in inappropriate relationships off to another school will also face consequences under the new law.
“I am proud to sign SB 7 to restore the trust that should exist between teachers and students, and also between parents and teachers, and to ensure that our schools remain a place where a child can go into that school with excitement to explore, to learn and to advance,” Governor Abbott concluded.
Data shows that the Texas Education Agency received 449 reported cases of inappropriate student-educator relationships from April 2015 through April 2017, which is a 65 percent increase in a two-year period.
Educator misconduct reports have been filed all across Texas, including in Austin, Bastrop, Cleburne, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Jefferson, Katy, San Antonio and more than two dozen other cities.
The increased penalties could include:
- Automatic termination and revocation of a teaching certificate for teachers that engage in improper relationships with students.
- Fines up to $10,000 on any superintendent or principal who neglect to report an improper relationship within 7 business days of discovering it.
- Jail time for principals or superintendents who intentionally conceal an improper relationship.
- Suspension, revocation, or denial of the certification of educators who assist an unscrupulous teacher in obtaining a job at another school.
- Suspension and annulment of an educator’s retirement annuity for educators convicted of having an an improper relationship with a student.
SB 7 passed in the legislature with broad bipartisan support and will take effect on September 1, 2017.