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improper educator-student relationship

Most states prosecute educators (teachers) for improper sexual contact with students under the state’s statutory rape laws—which are premised on the student being under the age of consent recognized by law, even if the student was a willing participant.

But some states have enacted specific statutes making it a crime—often a felony—for an educator to have sexual contact with a student—even if the student has reached the age of consent (17 years of age, for example).

Laws vary from state to state, and laws governing sexual contact between educators and students are generally located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal or criminal code.

In Texas, it is a criminal offense for an educator to engage in sexual contact with a student. This is governed by Texas Penal Code Section 21.12, which makes it illegal for an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school to engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in the school at which the employee works, regardless of the student's age. This law applies even if the student has reached the age of consent, which is 17 in Texas. Violation of this statute is considered an improper relationship between educator and student and is classified as a second-degree felony. This reflects the state's interest in protecting the integrity of the educational environment and the welfare of students.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. It is relevant to the topic as it provides a framework for addressing sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, in educational institutions.

Title IX states that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. The statute applies to all aspects of education and includes protections against sexual harassment and sexual violence. Educational institutions that receive federal funding are required to comply with Title IX by establishing procedures for handling complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual misconduct by educators. Failure to comply with Title IX can result in the loss of federal funding.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act)
The Clery Act is relevant to the topic as it requires higher education institutions to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses, including sexual offenses, which could involve educator-student interactions.

The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses. Compliance is monitored by the United States Department of Education, which can impose fines for violations. The Act also requires schools to provide timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the safety of students or employees, and to develop and implement policies for responding to reports of sexual violence and other crimes.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA)
VAWA is relevant as it includes provisions that specifically address sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in educational settings, which can involve educator-student relationships.

VAWA is a federal law that provides for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. It was reauthorized in 2013 to include the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, which amends the Clery Act. This provision expands the scope of this legislation to include requirements for institutions to provide prevention and education programs related to sexual violence, to disclose incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and to provide rights and resources to survivors. Educational institutions must have procedures in place to respond effectively to these incidents.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
FERPA is relevant to the topic as it protects the privacy of student education records, which may include records of investigations and disciplinary actions related to educator-student sexual misconduct.

FERPA is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children's education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student. In cases of sexual misconduct, FERPA allows schools to disclose to the alleged victim of any crime of violence, or a non-forcible sex offense, the final results of a disciplinary proceeding against the alleged perpetrator, regardless of whether the school concluded a violation was committed.