When parents decide to send their kids to school, most parents do not think about their child’s safety. They place the onus on the school board to ensure that their children are receiving care and guidance from positive role models, just as the parents did many years ago; however, there seems to be too many reports of sexual relationships between students and their teachers with much of it surrounding student molestation. Is the safety of their students truly the first priority of the schools? Or is it saving face in the eyes of the public?
Inappropriate Sexual Relationships in Texas
Unfortunately, inappropriate relationships between teachers and students seem to happen even in parents’ own backyards, just as one story recently published indicated. A Texas school teacher, Heather Lee Robertson, was recently arrested on charges of inappropriate relationships between herself and multiple high-school children. The police report includes claims that the teacher engaged in inappropriate contact over text messages and Snapchat that quickly escalated to inviting the students over to her home for sexual intercourse. If stories such as these, including charges of student molestation, occur even once, this is one time too many.
What are the Statistics?
While individual accounts, such as the one above, are certainly inflammatory, it can be helpful to sit back and look at the objective evidence. According to the government website regarding the national sex offender registry, almost 63,000 cases of child sexual abuse were reported back in 2012. The bureau goes on to discuss the types of sexual crimes that were committed, along with the gender and age breakdown. This number is heartbreaking and only serves to highlight that, despite the attention this criminal activity is receiving in the news, it still happens to many children every day.
Who Commits the Crime?
The national website goes on to state that about a sixty percent of the children targeted in sexual abuse cases are people who are known to the child but not family members. This includes family friends, babysitters, neighbors, teachers, and coaches. Furthermore, about thirty percent of children are targeted by family members. What this means is that only ten percent of children are targeted by total strangers. Finally, close to a quarter of all cases are reported to have been perpetrated by other minors, or people under the age of 18 years. This statistic is often shocking to parents, children, and their family members. Most cases of child sexual abuse are committed by someone the parents know, including teachers in the school. As the anecdotal case above highlights, teachers who are targeting children for sexual assault will often try to build a relationship with the child. In this case, the teacher started by using Snapchat and text messages to build a relationship with the high-schoolers that she had targeted. Then, the students would be more receptive to an invitation to her apartment for sexual activity.
The Process of Grooming
What the Texas teacher did above is a process called grooming. Sexual activity between students and teachers, including student molestation, often starts by building this relationship. Perhaps the teachers will give their students gifts, invite them to stay after school for extra help, or give them a spot on the coveted sports team that they coach. The goal is to gain the trust of the student and, perhaps, get the student alone in a one on one situation. This makes it easier for the teacher to take advantage of the student without any witnesses.
Grooming Versus “Being Nice”
Parents may look at the activities above and think that this happens all the time. After all, most teachers try to “be nice,” friendly, courteous, and kind with their students. Signs of grooming versus simply “being nice” include presents for students without any special occasion and attempts to isolate the student in a one on one situation. If a student is going to stay after school for tutoring, it is better to have another person present in the room. Finally, the teacher may try to target the student’s support systems, making the student feel like the teacher is the only person that the student can trust. This makes it easier to commit student molestation while keeping the student quiet.
What is Being Done to Limit This Behavior?
The frequency with which this problem is occurring hasn’t gone unnoticed and lawmakers are starting to take some action. Recently, Senate Bill 7 was introduced in response to a recent increase in the Texas area in rates of student molestation and other inappropriate relationships. In 2016 alone, the Texas Education Agency opened over 200 investigations of inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. Clearly, this number is far too high and this Senate bill intends to change this trend for the better. The goal of the bill is to punish teachers and principals who have engaged in inappropriate relationships with their students in the past. Unfortunately, teachers who have engaged in this kind of reprehensible behavior remain in the system to this day. Many of these incidents go unreported for a variety of reasons including the goal of maintaining a clean reputation. School administration often calls this “passing the trash.” The bill, which was passed unanimously in the Senate, makes it a Class A misdemeanor (and possible felony with jail time) not to report such a transgression.
Legal Action is Required
The goal of the bill is to reduce the rates of student molestation and make sure that the school is a safe place for every student, where parents don’t have to worry about the safety of their children when they step out the door. Any child who has been the target of student molestation deserves justice. Parents of children who have been taken advantage of by trusted teachers and officials should consider contacting GOM Law’s experienced student molestation attorneys for more information regarding possible courses of legal action.