In November 2020, a grand jury handed down an indictment against a former teacher's aide in Texarkana, TX, on the charge of improper relationship between teacher and student. At her arraignment on November 30, the former aide pleaded not guilty to the charge, according to local news sources.
The charge of alleged sexual misconduct traces back to October 2019, when the then teacher's aide allegedly engaged in a consensual relationship with a student with several encounters over a 4-month period. The student was 17 years old at the time; the defendant was 38. The evidence behind the indictment was based on cellphone data and social media exchanges between the parties. A trial date has not yet been made public.
Ramifications of Teacher-Student Relationships
The questions surrounding this story add to its murkiness. In Texas, 17 is the age of consent for children, and although Texas law specifically makes it a crime for educators to engage in sexual relationships with primary or secondary school students, the aide may not have thought of herself as an “educator” being in a secondary role—so she may have believed her actions were at least legal on both counts, if not ethical. Regardless of the reasons, the former aide has entered a plea of not guilty despite any evidence collected, so it may not be until the trial that these questions are answered.
Differences between High School and College Misconduct
This story might have played out differently had it occurred at the collegiate level. While teacher-student relationships always tend to tread a thin line ethically, a consensual relationship probably at least would not have resulted in criminal charges had the student been in college. However, most colleges and universities have their own policies about romantic or sexual entanglements between faculty/staff and students, and depending on the school, both parties might have found themselves facing disciplinary actions from the school—even if the aide was not technically in violation of the law. Such disciplinary actions could have harmed the aide's employment status and jeopardized the student's future career.
Getting Help When You're Accused
A criminal conviction for student-teacher sexual misconduct can create long-term complications for someone's life (including being forced to register as a sex offender). However, school disciplinary actions for such misconduct can be nearly as disruptive, with the added danger that the accused actually may not have as much right to a fair defense inside the school system. Even if you aren't facing criminal charges, your career prospects and future will be in jeopardy without effective third-party help. This is where hiring an attorney-advisor can give you a tremendous advantage. A good attorney-advisor will help you navigate the confusing disciplinary processes within the school, gather evidence and witnesses for your defense, and help ensure the school abides by its own policies to protect the rights of the accused.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience defending both students and faculty members, including professors, athletic coaches, staff, and others, in sexual misconduct and Title IX cases nationwide. To improve your chances for a better outcome, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.