A bill that would make it a crime if school administrators don’t report inappropriate relationships between school employees and students now sits on the governor’s desk, as the 85th Texas Legislative session draws to a close.
Senate Bill 7 and the companion bill in the House would allow school principals and superintendents to face criminal charges if they fail to report teachers or other school employees involved in inappropriate relationships with students.
Copperas Cove Independent School District officials believe any law that promotes student safety is a positive change.
“Anything we can do to further protect our students is positive. CCISD has always reported any suspicions of an inappropriate relationship between an educator and a student to the appropriate authorities in the rare instances that this has occurred,” said Barbara Tate, executive director of Human Resources, via e-mail Friday.
According to Tate, after a report is made, CCISD takes immediate action to conduct a formal investigation.
“CCISD immediately launches an investigation conducted by the executive director of human resources and/or the director of student services. The educator is placed on administrative leave once the investigation begins. If it appears there may be some truth to the allegations, the district notifies law enforcement.”
Tate then went on to say, “Depending on the extent of the allegations and what evidence may already be available, law enforcement may be contacted prior to launching the investigation so a joint investigation can be conducted.”
According to SB 7’s author, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, during fiscal year 2016 (September 2015 to September 2016), the Texas Education Agency opened 222 investigations that involved inappropriate relationships.
According to CCISD officials, there have been zero reports or investigations during the 2016-2017 school year related to inappropriate relationships between students and faculty.
Killeen ISD officials declined to state how many inappropriate relationship reports or investigations have happened over the past year.
CCISD uses a FBI database for background checks. All CCISD employees are required to be fingerprinted through the Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes a search through the FBI’s data base. The district then subscribes to a specific statewide database to view an applicant’s criminal history. Through that, the district will receive a notification any time the person is arrested in Texas.
KISD officials described a similar system.
According to a Texas Tribune report in March, Bettencourt said he authored Senate Bill 7 as a way to address an increased number of cases in the past eight years where Texas elementary, middle and high school faculty members were reported to having romantic and sexual relationships with their students.
KISD has had at least two reported incidents in the last four years.
On May 12, KISD released a statement that kindergarten school teacher Thomas Lloyd Cannon, 41, was arrested on a rape charge.
According to the Killeen Police Department affidavit, the victim is a 6-year-old girl. The assault took place at Iduma Elementary School, according to the affidavit. Cannon is now being held on $500,000 bond.
A former Ellison High School teacher pleaded guilty in January to having an improper sexual relationship with a student in 2014, a second-degree felony. Raymond Daniel Huckabee, a 39-year-old Georgetown resident, was sentenced to six years in prison by Judge Fancy H. Jezek.