Can I Be Charged for Inappropriate Virtual Student-Teacher Conduct?
For the past two academic semesters, students across the country have alternated between in-person and virtual learning formats in an attempt to keep students and their families safe from contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. Each state was presented with the ability to dictate their educational systems’ future for the fall semester, some returning to the classroom, others remaining fully remote, and even more states selecting a hybrid platform. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath required all schools in the state to open their doors to those who would like to return to the classroom while also being prepared for remote teaching for students who opt to remain at home.
These unprecedented changes to Texas classrooms have made things more challenging for teachers, students, and their families. Additionally, the dual academic options have made regulating students’ progress and teachers’ work increasingly difficult. As is the unfortunate case each year, inappropriate teacher-student relationships can continue to occur during this unique academic year. Teachers and students have an even greater virtual connection than ever before, making it easier for such relationships—and false accusations—to flourish.
Pressing Charges for Virtual Actions
Most inappropriate relationships like these are charged due to the physical nature of the incident. Perhaps the teacher and student have exhibited inappropriate behavior in the classroom or at a remote location. In the age of COVID-19, the likelihood of these physical interactions have likely decreased, but there is room for a different form of intimacy that still warrants criminal charges. According to Texas law, an inappropriate relationship has occurred if an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school engages in sexual contact, intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with an enrolled student or student participant of an academic activity that is sponsored by a school district. Those found guilty of this charge face second-degree felony charges.
While the description may seem to include solely physical activity, the law extends to include inappropriate sexual conduct that may occur virtually. A common example of this is known as “sexting,” or sending sexual text messages. Sexting is considered a crime if it is done between two minors or a minor and a legal adult. Depending on the content being sent, any graphic images may be considered child pornography for those under the age of 18. A law passed last year may also be applicable in cases such as these. House Bill 2789 became an effective law at the beginning of September and made the electronic transmission of sexually explicit material a Class C misdemeanor when consent was not provided for the graphic content. In other words, if a student receives unwanted sexually explicit content, there are multiple laws that can be highlighted to support the case in a court of law.
Contact a Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney
In a school year that has transitioned to online learning for a number of Texas students, facing accusations for inappropriate teacher-student relationships is not unlikely. Not only can messages be misconstrued, but there is also the possibility that a student or his or her family can attempt to press charges for personal reasons that do not actually involve illegal activity between you and the student. At The Crowder Law Firm, P.C., our legal team assists educators who are facing such charges to reduce their criminal charges or have the charges dropped altogether. We understand how damaging these accusations can be, which is why we are dedicated to defending your innocence. If you are facing criminal charges, call our Tarrant County criminal defense lawyers today at 214-303-9600 to schedule your free consultation.