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When Do Teacher-Student Relationships Cross the Line?

Tex. Pen. Code § 21.12 establishes a specific criminal offense based on an improper relationship between an educator and a student. Any employees of private or public primary or secondary schools commit this offense when they:

  • Engage in sexual contact or intercourse with a student enrolled at the school at which they work
  • Engage in sexual contact or intercourse with a student enrolled at another primary or secondary school or a student participant in a school-sponsored event, if they hold specific positions in a school, including a teacher, administrator, counselor, nurse, or librarian
  • Engage in the online solicitation of a minor who is a student at the school at which they work, or a student enrolled in another school or participating in a school-sponsored event, regardless of age

This code section does establish some affirmatives defenses to the crime of improper relationship between educator and student. For instance, the fact that the educator and student were married at the time of the offense is an affirmative defense. Likewise, it is an affirmative defense if the educator is not more than three years older than the student, and the couple already was in a relationship before the educator’s employment at the school.

When Do Teacher-Student Relationships Cross the Line?

Improper relationships between teachers and students, as described above, can result in second-degree felony charges. A conviction for a second-degree felony can cause a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years, as well as a $10,000 fine.

However, if a violation of this code section also is a criminal offense under another section of the Texas Penal Code, the accused person can face criminal charges under either code section or both code sections. As a result, the penalties can be very harsh for this offense, particularly if the prosecution chooses to file two separate charges against the accused.

When you are facing any criminal charges in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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