SB7 tackles improper student-teacher relationships

Lockhart High School has had three incidents of improper teacher-student relationships during the past six years.

The most recent was reported earlier this month. Due to an uptick in cases statewide, one senator wants to make sure teachers who've been charged won't be able to set foot in a classroom. Senate Bill 7 would punish school principals and superintendents who fail to report teachers involved in inappropriate relationships with students. 

Lockhart High School science teacher, 26-year-old Sarah Fowlkes, was arrested Monday after being accused of having an improper relationship with a 17-year-old student. The district learned of the relationship on March 10 and quickly alerted police.

"I really can't explain it but it shouldn't be happening at all," says Robert Delgado, parent. 

County officials say this is the third incident at Lockhart High School within the last six years.

"It's difficult because we have our children in the school and we don't know what's going on inside of the school," says Elia Martinez, parent.

Lockhart High School coach Thomas Knox, 28, was arrested in 2011 on charges of having an improper relationship with a 16-year-old student. He since had to register as a sex offender.

Lockhart librarian, 42-year-old Patricia Porter was arrested in 2012 on the same charge. Then we have the arrest this week of Fowlkes, who is also accused of having an improper relationship.

"If a young man or woman receives their teaching certificate, it's because they already went to school for that, they know the laws and they know they can't touch their students," says Martinez.

That is one reason why Senator Paul Bettencourt of Houston introduced SB 7.

"The problem is that people in the education industry, some of them, have not wanted to stop passing the trash from one school district to the next. Where an educator has a problem, they are allowed to go to the next school district and it's just unconscionable that we're not stopping this in its tracks," says State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, (R) Houston.

SB 7 requires a principal one week to notify everyone upon a conviction or knowledge that there is a criminal record. The superintendent also has one week to report it. Concerned parents say all school districts need to take more seriously.

"They need to check out their life; they need to check their record. Who is this person? Where do they come from? Where were they living before? What kind of person is she outside of school?" says Martinez.

House Bill 218 was also filed this session. It would expand criminal liability to include teachers who target students in schools or districts different than their own. It would also criminalize the failure to report to the state board for educator certification.

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