Improper Student-Teacher Relationship Charges in Houston

Empty school classroom on a sunny day

Texas law prohibits primary or secondary teachers and other school officials from engaging in sexual contact with students under a law known as Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student. Alleged violations can lead to severe punishments, including jail time, a felony record, and the loss of a job and teaching license. 

In 2023, approximately 15 charges for Improper-Student Relationships were filed in Houston, although according to some publications, these types of relationships are very common in Texas schools. If you are under investigation for Improper Student-Teacher Relationship, or have been charged, it is critical that you speak with an experienced sex crimes defense attorney immediately

How is Improper Student-Teacher Relationship Charged in Texas?

Under Texas Penal Code 21.12, an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee engages in sexual contact with a person who is enrolled at the school at which the employee works. The statute requires that the defendant hold a position that is specified in Section 21.003 of the education code (which includes teachers, administrators, therapists and medical professionals, and others), and that the defendant knows that the student is enrolled at the school or is a participant in an activity sponsored by the school. 

Under Texas law, Improper Student-Teacher Relationship is a second-degree felony with a punishment range of 2-20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Unlike some sex-related offenses, a judge may place a person on deferred or regular probation for Improper Student-Teacher Relationship. 

Is a conviction for Improper Student-Teacher Relationship subject to sex offender registration?

Improper Student-Teacher Relationship is not subject to sex offender registration, although other offenses sometimes charged alongside Improper Student-Teacher Relationship (such as sexual assault) may be. 

Can other school officials be charged under the Improper Student-Teacher Relationship statute?

Yes. As noted above, a wide-variety of professionals employed by a school can be charged under the Improper Student-Teacher Relationship statute. In addition to teachers, this includes teacher trainees, administrators, librarians, counselors, therapists, psychologists and other medical professionals, including nurses and physicians. According to the statute, there is no requirement that the employee actually hold a valid certificate for his or her position at the time of the alleged offense. 

What should I do if I am under investigation for Improper Student-Teacher Relationship?

If you are under investigation for a sex crime in Houston, the most important thing is for you to understand your rights and consult with an experienced sex crimes attorney as quickly as possible. It is almost always a bad idea to make a statement to law enforcement or school officials if you are suspected of any criminal offense, as any statement could make it possible for the police to charge you with a crime. 

How are Improper Student-Teacher Relationship cases defended? 

When a person is charged with Improper Student-Teacher Relationship, the goal is to protect the person’s freedom and reputation. With any criminal case, the first step will always be to obtain the evidence in the case, which typically includes offense reports, videos, witness statements and other items of evidence, such as text messages. The most common defense is that the alleged improper relationship did not actually happen and that there was no sexual contact. The statute also contains some defenses, including that the defendant and student were married, or that the defendant was not more than 3 years older than the student. 

Improper Student-Teacher Relationship is a very serious offense in Texas and you should speak to a skilled criminal defense lawyer right away if you are under investigation or have been charged. Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who regularly defends sex crimes in Houston and has the knowledge and experience to maximize your chance of a good result. Call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.