With about three weeks left of the 85th legislative session, another priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has become law.

Senate Bill 7, sponsored by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) prevents the practice known as “Passing the Trash,” a problem that has been underreported here in Texas.

“Passing the Trash” is a nickname for situations such as a teacher leaving one school district amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a student only to find employment in another school district, while never facing repercussions for their alleged crime. Prior to this legislation becoming law, teachers could easily be shuffled from one school district to another, in some cases even receiving a positive letter of recommendation from their former employer.

To fix the problem, SB 7 looks to more specifically target the administrators who in the past could foster this sort of behavior by sweeping the matter under the rug and failing to notify the Texas Education Agency.

The law requires that not just school superintendents report all incidents of the sort to the TEA, but that school principals do so as well—a measure that will ensure students’ rights are protected in larger school districts.

Administrators who fail to do so under the new law will face the possibility of losing their education certificate and thus their ability to hold their job. Additionally, intentional failure to report inappropriate relationships between teachers and students by school administrators will now be a Class A criminal offense, a state jail felony.

After having received huge amounts of bipartisan praise and coauthors from both sides of the aisle, the bill passed the Texas State Senate and House unanimously earlier this month.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

In the 2015-2016 school year, Texas suffered more than 200 reported incidents of inappropriate student and teacher relationships. It is thought that many times that number went unreported. With the signature of Gov. Abbott has signed SB 7, Texans can begin to curb this problem that has plagued Texas for years.

 

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