Texas A&M Law Review


Paul Elkins

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Young people, especially those enrolled in primary and secondary schools, are particularly susceptible to being taken advantage of by people they trust. Section 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code criminalizes improper relationships between educators and students in an effort to prevent the mental and physical harm that occurs when school employees use their classrooms as pools from which to choose potential sexual encounters. While few would argue that such a purpose is not well-intentioned, the law as it currently stands falls far short of criminalizing predatory behavior only where a position of authority has been abused. Rather, the Improper Relationship Statute’s current language ac- tually has the potential to punish most certified school employees, regardless of whether the employee actually teaches in a classroom on a regular basis or has any regular interaction with the student that may be involved. Further- more, the Improper Relationship Statute’s language goes beyond the walls of the teachers’ own classrooms—and even their own schools—by extending the prohibition to all students within the entire school district.

Despite numerous amendments since the Improper Relationship Statute’s enactment, no amendments have narrowed the Improper Relationship Stat- ute’s language so as to reach only those offenders who use their position of power to elicit a relationship with a student. As a result, the Improper Rela- tionship Statute not only fails in specifically targeting the originally intended perpetrator—a predatory teacher—it also carries far greater consequences than necessary to accomplish its appropriate purpose.

This Comment proposes changes to the language of the Improper Relation- ship Statute that will lessen the overreaching nature of the current language by adding an abuse-of-authority component. Although this proposal is not with- out its shortcomings, it puts the focus of the prohibited conduct on the rela- tionship be ween the accused and the student and not simply the accused’s profession.

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