Heather Rose, 38, a teacher's aide in Texarkana, Texas was involved in a consensual relationship with a 17-year-old student for months. She may have thought that since the relationship was consensual and the student was 17 (the age of consent in Texas), she was doing no wrong. Or perhaps she knew she was crossing the line, but her private life was her business and didn't think she'd be caught. The teacher's aide was dead wrong on both counts. Texarkana police arrested Rose in September 2020 after school district officials were notified that Rose was in a consensual relationship with a 17-year-old male student. Rose was charged with “improper relationship between educator and student” and faces 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 if convicted.
College Policies On Consensual Relationships With Students
Relationship policies vary from college to college and often overlap with other Employee and Title IX policies which apply to professors and graduate student teaching assistants. For example, at Michigan State University maintains a Conflict of Interest in Employment Policy and a Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy. If you are a teacher's assistant or other university employee accused of an improper relationship with a student, you must consult your university handbook for current policies on staff-student relationships, as well as any relevant Title IX, Sexual Misconduct, and Employee Policies. It is highly advisable to find an expert Title IX attorney-advisor, up-to-date on the constantly shifting university relationship policies.
Prohibited Relationships Usually Apply Only To Supervisory Roles
Most universities make allowances for consensual relationships between grad and undergrad students when the graduate student does not have a supervisory role. For example, Tulane University’s policy is consistent with most universities: “faculty, graduate students, staff and administrators employed by the University shall not engage in consensual relationships with students relative to whom they hold a position of authority in such matters as instructing or otherwise evaluating, supervising, or advising the student as part of any school program or activity, whether academic or non-academic.” When a consensual relationship exists or develops, the employee must end the position of authority over the student and notify university administration. If the person in authority or the student declines to dissolve the institutional relationship, the university will take steps to do so.
Some Colleges Ban Staff-Student Relations Across The Board
More and more universities are instituting stronger restrictions on faculty-student and employee-student relationships in the era of the “Me Too” movement. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Duke Universities adopted prohibitory policies against dating undergraduates under any circumstance, not only where a supervisory relationship exists. Blanket relationship bans are controversial, and many people in academia oppose them. One professor wrote a paper last year arguing against blanket bans, “because adults have a fundamental right to engage in intimate relationships without interference.” Brett Sokolow, the president of an academic association for Title IX compliance, believes that behaviors that “cross the line are already addressable under existing policies…the Draconian rules being implemented on many campuses now are both infantilizing and over-broad.”
College Disciplinary Measures For Improper Consensual Relationships
As an employee respondent facing a claim of an improper relationship with a student, you face potential disciplinary action, and your reputation and career may be negatively impacted. Upon receiving a complaint, the college has a responsibility to investigate promptly, fairly, and equitably and grant you privacy within the confines of the university. Federal guidelines emphasize that all parties to these actions are entitled to proper due process rights. Unfortunately, there are instances where institutional administrators may fail to consider the rights of employee respondents or even violate the rules and regulations listed in their own code of conduct to disadvantage respondents. A knowledgeable Title IX attorney-advisor can effectively defend your rights and maintain your professional reputation.
Contact An Experienced Title IX Attorney-Advisor
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have the experience necessary to achieve positive results in actions against university professors, teaching assistants, and other employees accused of an improper relationship with a student. He will protect your right to due process and pursue a favorable outcome. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 for more information.