When Can a Texas Educator's Insubordination Amount to Soliciting a Romantic Relationship with a
Since the passage of Senate Bill 7 by the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) has been very busy writing administrative regulations (i.e., rules) to implement the provisions of SB 7 and to otherwise strengthen rules governing the discipline of Texas educators, particularly regarding inappropriate relationships between educators and students and/or minors. SBEC adopted a very important rule revision on October 12, 2018, and the record of this adoption is found at 43 Tex.Reg. 6841. This rule expands the behaviors or factors that constitute “prima facie” (on its face) evidence of “solicitation of a romantic relationship” with a student, conduct which is prohibited by Standard 3.6 of the Texas Educators’ Code of Ethics. It truly takes 5-6 PowerPoint slides to elaborate this definition and these factors (found in 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.3), so the addition of a single line can easily get buried.
The now-12th factor that SBEC may consider as “prima facie” evidence that a Texas educator has solicited a romantic relationship with a student is the educator’s violation “of written directives from school administrators regarding the educator’s behavior toward a student” (19 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.3 (51)(J)). In other words, in determining whether an educator may be disciplined for soliciting a romantic relationship with a student, SBEC may look toward whether an administrator previously issued one or more written directives regarding that educator’s allegedly improper behavior, and whether the educator disregarded the directive(s). If the educator did not follow the directive, SBEC may issue certificate sanctions if the educator cannot rebut that evidence.
In responding to public comments opposing the addition of this factor, SBEC observed:
The SBEC disagrees and maintains language as proposed. First, it is important to recognize that the existence of a directive regarding an educator's behavior toward students is not sufficient under the rule to show prima facie evidence that an educator is unworthy to instruct or is soliciting a romantic relationship with a student. Rather, it is the educator's subsequent violation of the written directive that the adopted amendment identifies as prima facie evidence of solicitation of a romantic relationship…An educator's violation of a directive regarding his or her behavior toward students shows that the educator received a warning and still could not stop the improper behavior. The educator's violation of a directive shows that there was no accident, misunderstanding, or simple misinterpretation: an administrator told the educator that his or her behavior was wrong, and the educator still chose to persist in the same inappropriate behavior toward a student. An educator who cannot stop himself or herself from misbehavior with students is an educator who should not be allowed in a classroom. (43 Tex.Reg. 6841)
This revision is extremely important for Texas educators to understand. As the number of Texas Education Agency (TEA) investigations into inappropriate relationships continues to increase, SBEC and TEA continue to look for ways to circumscribe the conduct of educators with students. Each Texas educator should be apprised of this rule revision in school district professional development initiatives. The stakes have never been higher.