Teacher-Student Relations: Losing Your License Is the Least of Your Worries

Acclaimed author Vladimir Nabokov shocked the world in 1955 with Lolita, a tragicomic novel that featured a professor in his late 30s carrying on a sexual relationship with a teenage girl. The novel would eventually span a new dictionary term for sexually precocious young women, film adaptations by Stanley Kubrick and Adrian Lynne, hit songs by The Police, Katy Perry and Lana Del Rey, and a hard look into teacher-student relations by state legislatures.

Teacher-Student Relations Losing Your License Is the Least of Your WorriesAlthough the famous novel by Nabokov presents what can be considered as a case of ephebophilia, which is the term used to describe an inappropriate sexual fixation on teenagers even when they are into their legal consent years. The Texas Penal Code has its own interpretation of this situation under section 21.12, which deals with relationships between students who attend public or private learning institutions and their educators.

Improper Relationships between Educators and Students in Texas

Any teacher, professor or employee who holds a state certificate and works in a public or private learning institution in the Lone Star State can be charged with this crime. Ephebophilia does not have to occur for charges to be brought against educators who have relationships with their students; a student attending a primary or secondary school in Texas may be past the age of consent and still be considered as a participant in an improper relationship despite being past the age of consent. The legal burden is on the employee to avoid such relationships at all costs.

The punishment for violations of section 21.12 under the Texas Penal Code may result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine no greater than $10,000. An arrest under such charges may lead to a suspension and even loss of employment under some circumstances. The situation could worsen if the charges are upgraded due to the age of the student or if there is a presumption of sexual favors being exchanged for good grades.

Elements of Improper Student-Teacher Relationships in Texas

The Texas Penal Code states that the following facts must be considered when charging someone for holding an improper relationship:

  • Sexual contact must have occurred.
  • The student may be enrolled in a public or private learning institution in Texas, but not necessarily the same school where the educator works. It may also be a school in the same pubic district; or, in some cases, the relationship may have started when a student was involved in an activity held by the institution
  • The educator provides private tutoring services and becomes involved with a student knowing that he or she is still enrolled in high school.

Affirmative Defenses for Having Sex with Students

Criminal defense attorneys can quickly dismiss improper relationship charges when the educator is no more than three years older than the student and he or she was already in a relationship with the student prior to being hired at the institution where the offense is alleged to have taken place. The same defense can be applied when the alleged parties are married.

Don’t Lose Your License over a Simple Mistake

Sometimes, it’s easy to get carried away and make a simple mistake. However, it’s not fair that a simple lapse in judgment should cost a person his or her career. Individuals who have been accused of having sexual relations with their students should call 713-868-6100 today to see how Matthew D. Sharp can help.

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