Hardly a week goes by without a story popping up in the media about a teacher having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student. This type of sexual contact violates many laws. However, students can often make up stories about an affair as a way to strike back at a teacher or simply gain attention from peers. At Tad Nelson & Associates, we provide legal defense to teachers accused of a criminal sexual relationship. If your principal has called you in, or if the police are knocking on your door, please contact us.
What the Texas Penal Code Says
Texas has a section of the penal code that deals with student-teacher relationships. Under Section 21.12, any of the following is a crime:
- You are a school employee and have any type of sexual conduct with a student enrolled at your school or in any other school.
- You are an employee and have sexual contact with a student who is participating in a school sponsored activity, like a sporting event.
- You are an employee who engages in online solicitation of a minor who is a student at your school or another school or who is a participant in a school-sponsored activity.
This statute is broad. It covers conduct or solicitation of students at the school where you work but also students at other schools. The law covers not only teachers but librarians, counselors, and other employees.
This is a second-degree felony, which means up to 20 years in prison for a conviction. You might also be prosecuted for other crimes as well. For example, depending on the student’s age, you could be charged with aggravated sexual assault if the student is under 14.
Can You Defend against the Charges?
Yes. But many people are shocked to learn that consent isn’t a defense in most cases. The school employee-student relationship is one that Texas sees as ripe for exploitation, and for that reason we’ve chosen to criminalize it.
The statute identifies a couple defenses:
- You’re married to the student at the time you commit the offense, or
- You are no more than 3 years older than the student and your relationship predates your employment at the school.
So a boyfriend who gets a job at his old high school isn’t guilty if he continues to date his girlfriend who’s a senior.
We can also raise other common defenses, like reasonable doubt. If there’s no physical evidence, you might only have the student’s claim that you were sexually intimate. This is a classic “he said, she said” situation. Of course, the student might have texts or other communications which suggest an unusual student-teacher relationship. Remember to share everything with your attorney.
We might also argue that you don’t qualify as an employee under the statute. For example, you might have been a former employee. Still, your conduct could violate other criminal statutes.
We Can Defend You
Tad Nelson is an experienced sex crimes attorney in Galveston and League City. Contact him today to schedule a meeting.