Teacher-student sexual affairs are increasing
Madison scandal is latest in disturbing citywide trend
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 15:07
In the last two years, reports of inappropriate relationships between students and teachers have increased at San Antonio schools, according to Adriana Biggs, chief of the white-collar crime division of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.
In the most recent incident, a 34-year-old male teacher is accused of having a relationship with an 18-year-old female senior at Madison High School. The teacher was fired, and Northeast Independent School District police are investigating the allegations. The police are waiting for phone records before forwarding the case to the District Attorney’s Office, said district spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor.
Technology, from phone records to social media, can make it easier for these cases to be prosecuted, Biggs said.
“The technology is there, it’s not just ‘he said, she said,’ ” Biggs said. “Whereas before, they might have said something inappropriate, now they send you a text or a picture of themselves; it makes the case easier to pursue.”
In the Madison case, the student has photos of the teacher on her Facebook page, and the two have posted comments on each other’s pages, though none of the comments or photos contain sexual content. In one post, the young woman says she attended Shakespeare in the Park at the San Antonio Botanical Garden to watch “Othello” with the teacher May 31, five days before graduation.
Even though the allegations in the Madison case involve an 18-year-old student, who is legally an adult, the law makes any sexual relationship between a teacher and student illegal. The offense is a second-degree felony, and sentencing can range from two to 20 years, yet first-time offenders can apply for community supervision, Biggs said.
Biggs said the adult still may be prosecuted even if the student is 18 and consented to having a relationship with a teacher.
In 2003, Texas legislators passed a law under Penal Code 21.12 to prosecute educators and adult school employees who engage in sexual misconduct.
“The Legislature wants people to know it is taking the issue seriously,” Biggs said. “Consent is not an issue because the teacher is in a position of authority.”
Biggs hopes that the incidents will decrease as a result of new laws being passed, but said, “You never know though, people never cease to amaze me.”
After a report is made to the school, administrators conduct an investigation. If evidence is discovered, the school will file charges with the police and hand the case over to the district attorney, Biggs said.
Biggs said parents should be more vigilant, review their children’s texts, monitor online activity and check on who they are spending time with.
Indication of a teacher-student relationship could include a child being reclusive or introverted, falling grades and an excessive amount of time spent with a teacher, said Dr. Thomas Matthews, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
These relationships happen when a teacher takes a special interest in the student, Matthews said. Students who face neglect and insecurities tend to cling to a source of power. When a teacher gets involved with a student, they cross that line of authority, and the child enters into a state of dependency for that control.
With not enough research being done on the psychological reason behind these events, Matthews said unless the incident is big, the case may not be reported to the public, making statistics hard to obtain.
Matthews said in his high school, an acquaintance had sexual relations with a teacher, and the student later committed suicide. Matthews said that situation made him more observant of his surroundings.
He said these relationships should not happen. “The authority in this situation is an adult having the ability to control a person of lower power,” Matthews said.
When charges are dropped and no further investigation is conducted, tracking the accused becomes more difficult. When a case goes unfiled, the school potentially faces a civil liability because these victimizers can offend again, Biggs said.
Studies have shown that later in life, the victim will likely have relationships where they are more likely to become victimized again, and to feel the need to be controlled.
The issue is not age, Matthews said, but authority.
As with laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, the prohibition exists to protect subordinates from being victimized by those in power.
Educating teachers, students and parents about this crime will potentially help in the awareness of appropriate and inappropriate behavior, he said.
“Whether you are black, white, poor or rich, any child can be subject to abuse without the proper guidance,” Matthews said.