Despite several laws approved by the Texas Legislature in recent years designed to deal with the problem, a State Senate committee was told that improper relationships between students and teachers are on the increase, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"We have gone from 302 on 2016 to 429 last year," State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) told the Senate Education Committee. "Its in every school district, everywhere from the Red River to the Rio Grande."
Despite new laws meant to fight the relationships, officials told the committee that in many cases, public school districts, unwilling to face the public scrutiny of admitting to a relationship between a teacher and a student, will simply allow the teacher to quietly resign, meaning that teacher will then be hired by a neighboring district and frequently, the problem occurs again.
Bettancourt says this is the first time there has been an accurate count of the number of improper student-teacher relationships which exist."I actually consider this to be a positive development," he said. "Because what gets measured, gets fixed, and we are finally figuring out the extent of the problem."
Doug Phillips, who heads investigations for the Texas Education Agency, says the number of improper relationships may not be on the increase.
"Does this mean there are more of these relationships, or does it simply mean that more of these reports are being made to us?"
Social media is one factor influencing the increase in improper student, teacher relationships, officials say. Social media allows teachers to continue to have contact with their students after school hours. Some school districts have banned teachers from 'friending' or communicating with students on social media.
There is also talk in the committee of a 'Do Not Hire' list being publicly distributed by school districts, which would also be available to private schools.
State law refers to any relationship between a teacher and a student int he teacher's control to be 'improper,' whether or not the student involved is 17 or older, which is the state's age of majority.