SBEC sanctions teacher over inappropriate texts with student | TCTA
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SBEC sanctions teacher over inappropriate texts with student

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A complaint was filed against a teacher with the State Board for Educator Certification, alleging that the teacher's certificate should be sanctioned for inappropriate text messages with a student. The teacher requested a hearing regarding the complaint before the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

At the hearing, testimony revealed that the teacher's principal received a call from a parent who stated he was concerned about text messages between the teacher and his daughter that were occurring late at night. At the time, the teacher was a coach and an English teacher. An investigation found that the teacher and student exchanged 524 texts over an eight-day period. Though the texts began with discussions about school-related issues, most were outside the scope of school topics, and included the following:

  • Teacher commenting on how the student was “all grown up” and a “strong independent woman;”
  • The student texting “sweet dreams” to the teacher, and the teacher texting “sweet dreams” in return;
  • The student telling the teacher that she was going grocery shopping, and the teacher asking her to pick up his groceries as well;
  • The student informing the teacher that she had engaged in self-harm in the past;
  • Teacher telling the student about his own suicidal thoughts;
  • Teacher telling the student about how a previous girlfriend was killed by a drunk driver; and
  • Teacher offering to rent the student a room in his house after she graduates.

The principal testified that the district has a policy regarding communications between employees and students that mandates that employees are not to communicate with students between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The policy also requires a parent or guardian be included on any texts with a student. The principal also testified that the district has a messaging application that employees can use to contact students and that it is preferred over text messaging. The text messages between the teacher and student did not comply with this policy.

The teacher admitted to communicating with the student and that those communications were unrelated to his job duties, but denied a romantic relationship. He characterized his communications with the student as those of a father figure or a mentor. Following the allegations, he resigned from the district.

After considering the evidence, the administrative law judge determined that the teacher's actions violated two provisions of the Educator's Code of Ethics, specifically that the teacher failed to comply with local school board policies and failed to refrain from inappropriate communications with a student. The administrative law judge recommended that the teacher receive a non-inscribed reprimand for these violations.

After considering the recommendations, SBEC members decided to reject the proposed sanction and instead ordered that the teacher's certificate be suspended for two years. In doing so, the board stated that the teacher's conduct was serious and intentional. Additionally, a non-inscribed reprimand would fail to properly warn the public about the teacher's conduct and was not sufficient to deter other educators from engaging in similar conduct.