Governor Abbott signs bill designed to crackdown on teacher-student relationships

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- In southeast Texas, we've reported on numerous cases of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students. Sometimes, those relationships involve sexual behavior.

On Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law penalties for educators who violate our trust.

"Texas is going to impose real and stiff consequences for any teacher who dares to have an inappropriate relationship with one of his or her students," said Abbott.

The law strips teaching licenses and pensions from those convicted of inappropriate relationships and it punishes administrators who don't immediately report what they know about teachers who may have crossed the line.

RELATED: Recent teacher-student sex crime convictions in the area

"We want to make sure we maintain the safety and security of all Texans," said Abbott. "But especially students in schools so they will never be assaulted by a teacher."

State Senator Paul Bettencourt, of Houston, wrote the legislation which passed both Houses unanimously.

"The public now knows not to tolerate this because it's in news story after news story," said Bettencourt. "But the good news is once it happens, these people are out of the education profession for life. A quite necessary component of a deterrent to get people to think twice before they do something stupid for themselves and change the life of the student they're involved with forever."

One recent Houston-area case involved former educator Alexandria Vera. She was a middle school teacher whose student impregnated her. Harris County Judge Michael McSpadden presided over her trial and sentenced her to ten years in prison.

He's advocated for tough penalties and is glad to see the new law but he wishes there was no need for it.

"If we were a good society which took care of our young people, our students, this would never be an issue," said McSpadden.

Governor Abbott said the law is equally important for the penalties it imposes on administrators who fail to act when they suspect an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and student.

"Co-conspirators in this process have been some principals as well as some administrators and we're saying you too are no longer going to be able to get off the hook. You too are going to face consequences," he said.

McSpadden said he's optimistic the bill works and all teachers stick to their jobs when it comes to students.

"Teachers are there to teach and they're not to have their hands on our children," he added. "Simple as that."

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