East Texas Mom Fights For Safer Schools

Despite their smiles today, Gina and Gregg Magee say they are still haunted by September 13, 2005. It was the day they learned their daughter was sexually assaulted by someone they considered a friend.

"You think 'How could they? How could they?' I know for our daughter, her innocence was taken out of it," says Gina.

She was a 15 year old at Brownsboro High School when it happened. The relationship started when her biology teacher started sending inappropriate text messages. Ultimately, the two had sex in his Smith County home.

"It's heartbreaking. It's just, your mind cannot wrap around something like this, and you're certainly not prepared emotionally for somthing like this," says Gina.

She says her daughter's case is just part of a nationwide epidemic. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 10% of all students are targets of sexual misconduct by their teachers at some point. In 2004-2005, the Texas State Board of Educator Certification found 35 certified teachers were also registered sex offenders.

That's why Gina recently headed to Austin, tearfully testifying before lawmakers in support of a newly proposed piece of state senate legislation.

If passed, the bill would require criminal history background checks of all public school employees. It would also prohibit convicted Title 5 felons and sex offenders from working in public schools.  It would create a DPS clearinghouse for information to be shared between districts. All of this, lawmakers say, will improve communication between law enforment and school officials.

While the bill is still in its formative stages, Gina says fighting for it is her way of doing something about a huge problem that hit entirely too close to home.

"You've got to stand up and do something, but it seems like until it gets personal, people don't want to say anything. Everyone of us should be taking this personally, because this is like an attack on our kids."

Lindsay Wilcox/Reporting: lwilcox@kltv.com