During the past year, Texas parents have grown increasingly concerned about the public education system sexualizing children by exposing students to sex-related topics and explicit materials that are inappropriate for school-age kids.
Even more disturbing is the latest string of school employees charged with sex crimes against students.
These bad apples represent a tiny fraction of Texas educators, yet schools are still failing to protect children from sexual predators.
Under Texas law, it’s a crime for any public or private school employee to engage in sexual contact with a student, and for any adult to solicit a minor for sexual activity using the internet or other electronic messaging.
An improper relationship between an educator and a student is a second-degree felony.
Online solicitation of a minor is a third-degree felony; if the minor is younger than 14 years of age, the crime is a second-degree felony.
The criminal misconduct also violates the Texas Educators’ Code of Ethics, which says educators “shall not solicit or engage in sexual conduct or a romantic relationship with a student or minor” and also prohibits “inappropriate communications” between educators and students or minors.
Ethics violations are grounds for educators to lose their state teaching certification.
Texas laws to prevent “passing the trash” obligate school superintendents to report inappropriate student-teacher relationships to the Texas Education Agency and State Board for Educator Certification, so offenders can’t simply move to other districts.
Since 2017, when the legislature imposed fines and jail time on principals and superintendents who fail to report sex-crime complaints to the state, the TEA has seen a spike in annual investigations of educators’ inappropriate relationships with students or minors—up to 466 “IRWSM” investigations in the 2020-21 school year.
The problem of teachers preying on students isn’t confined to Texas.
Fox News reported in October that at least 269 educators nationwide had been arrested for child sex crimes in the first nine months of 2022, and 74 percent of these crimes involved students.
The internet has contributed to the rising number of teacher-student sex crimes.
In 2014, former chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Education Terry Abbott said social media was “a huge driver of this problem.”
“We’re seeing many cases in which teachers send students text messages with nude pictures of themselves or inappropriate video,” Abbott told the New York Daily News.
A number of Texas teachers have been caught using the internet to initiate sexual relationships with students or try to hook up with minors. One state lawmaker has proposed banning Texas minors’ access to social media.
In the most disturbing cases, school employees have assaulted very young children, but all sexual activity between educators and students of any age is criminal.
“Teachers have authority over children every day, so it’s very important to protect that relationship, and any teacher who abuses that authority and takes advantage of a child in the classroom, that should be considered a serious crime,” Abbott said.
Yet as educators expose students to increasingly explicit content, school children are becoming easier targets of sexual abuse.
In December alone:
Hale Center ISD teacher Amy Gilly, 46, was arrested and charged with having an improper sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. The two had been texting each other and reportedly had a sexual encounter in Gilly’s vehicle.
Comal ISD teacher Emily Anderson, 35, pleaded guilty to having sex with a 15-year-old student in a biology classroom closet. Anderson was charged in 2021 with sexual assault of a child and improper relationship between an educator and a student, after the boy’s mother found sexually explicit text messages from the teacher on her son’s phone.
Grand Prairie ISD teacher and football coach Kenrick Burns, 28, was arrested for having an “intimate relationship” with an 18-year-old female student. Burns was charged with improper relationship between an educator and a student.
China Spring ISD teacher and girls’ sports coach Keneth Lamadrid, 41, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor prostitution charge, after being arrested last year on felony charges for soliciting two females for sex—one a 16-year-old girl.
Below is a sampling of other Texas educators accused or convicted of sex crimes against children in the past year:
Prosper ISD bus driver Frank Paniagua, 61, was arrested in May and charged with sexually molesting two elementary school sisters for almost an entire school year. The sex-abuse charges were covered up until the girls’ family sued the district in August for negligence. Paniagua died in June from injuries sustained during a jailhouse suicide attempt.
Irving ISD elementary school teacher Victor Moreno, 28, was arrested in July and August for improper relationships with students. He was charged with continuous sexual abuse of a 7-year-old girl and sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl.
Frisco ISD physical education aide Ruben Bustillos, 60, was fired in May and arrested for showing “harmful material” to minors. The “inappropriate images” were found in a boys’ restroom at the elementary school where Bustillos worked.
Keller ISD middle school band director Jedidiah Maus, 36, was charged in March with multiple felony counts of indecency with a child for acts spanning several years. Maus was first arrested last year for exposing himself to male students in school bathrooms.
Allen ISD middle school teacher Anthony Mattei, 59, was arrested in August and charged with two counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact. Mattei had faced allegations of misconduct involving a student in April but had been allowed to return to the classroom.
Tomball ISD intermediate school teacher Marka Bodine, 32, admitted she had a three-year sexual relationship with a student starting when he was just 13. Police said Bodine used social media and text messages to groom the boy. In August, she was sentenced to just 60 days in jail for her crime.
Mesquite ISD teacher’s aide Bryan Garcia, 22, was arrested in September and charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child, following accusations that he engaged in improper relationships with students he had communicated with using cellphone apps.
Richardson ISD teacher Jason Delezen, 40, was arrested in October and charged with having an “inappropriate relationship” with a minor while he was teaching in Texarkana in 2019.
Lovejoy ISD teacher Ray Cooper was allowed to resign after he was caught sending sexually suggestive text messages to a 17-year-old male student. Cooper’s teaching certificate shows a “reprimand,” which TEA says “does not affect the validity of an educator’s certificate.”
Allen ISD Foundation board member Neil Riddick, 61, resigned in November after he was caught on a sting video trying to meet a 14-year-old boy for sex.