By Patrick Svitek
The Texas Tribune
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday signed into law a measure that aims to crack down on inappropriate student-teacher relationships.
"Today, by signing this law, we're saying no more are we going to allow that to happen," Abbott said moments before signing Senate Bill 7 at the Texas Capitol. "Texas is going to impose real and stiff consequences for any teacher who dares have any inappropriate relationship with his or her students."
SB 7, authored by Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston, requires principals and superintendents to report cases of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students or face a state jail felony or a fine of up to $10,000. It goes into effect Sept. 1.
Last year, the state opened 222 investigations into educators having romantic and sexual relationships with their students, part of an upward trend over the past eight years. Bettencourt and others said a lack of reporting has allowed teachers involved in such relationships to get jobs in other districts, a practice known as "passing the trash."
Senate Bill 7 was a priority for Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who attended the signing ceremony Thursday. In his State of the State address in January, the governor asked lawmakers for legislation that "imposes real consequences" for teachers who assault students and administrators who stay quiet about it.
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.