EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - The Texas Education Agency reports the number of investigations involving inappropriate relationships between educators and students increased from 302 cases in the 2016-2017 school year to 429 cases in the 2017-2018 school year.
So far this school year the TEA has 22 open investigations of inappropriate relationships between educators and students. This is causing school districts in East Texas to take action.
“There’s zero tolerance for an inappropriate relationship between educator and student," Winona ISD Superintendent Cody Mize said.
A superintendent’s main priority is keeping students safe. Part of that is having policies in place to maintain appropriate relationships between teachers and students.
“We highly discourage any one-on-one communication," he said. "We try to do that through the Remind App, that’s a common tool that a lot of our teachers use to send a group message to everyone that way everyone gets the same message.”
Mize said monitoring communication is key. He also recommends teachers only contact students during specific hours.
“There’s certain times in the day from 8am-8pm that we’re going to allow our teachers and our coaches to communicate through group messaging," he said.
At Overton ISD, superintendent Stephen DuBose said teachers can only communicate with students outside of school if a third person is included in that message.
“Our policies are set up so that any communication between an educator and a student whether they’re a coach or band director or just a classroom teacher must be sent also to the principal so that there is no one-on-one communication at all," he said.
In the school district where Barbara Orpineda, a former school counselor convicted of sexual assault of a child worked, Arp ISD superintendent John Arrington said in a statement, “Inappropriate communications between educators and students is prohibited. Likewise, it should go without saying that any romantic or sexual relationship between an educator and a student is also prohibited.”
The statement goes on to say “throughout the course of this matter, AISD applied its policies and has found that they worked as designed and intended.”