Keeping up with Texas news too often means reading stories of teachers involved in illegal sexual relationships with students. It happens here more than it happens anywhere else, and whether this is a new epidemic or something that we’re just recognizing thanks to social media’s virtual paper trail, it’s something that must be taken seriously.
The law mandates action, in fact: Texas requires teachers who learn of abuse allegations—including sexual relationships between a teacher and a minor student—to report it to Family Protective Services or local or state law enforcement within 48 hours. So when a female student told Prosper ISD teacher MariBeth Thomas that she had been touched inappropriately by another teacher, who kept telling her “I like you,” Thomas immediately went to the Prosper Police Department. And that, apparently, infuriated her superiors. As the Dallas Morning News reports:
Thomas said Wright and other school officials angrily berated her last March for reporting the allegations of sexual misconduct to the Prosper Police Department instead of to the district’s own police force.
But not only did Thomas follow state law by reporting the alleged incident to local authorities, she also complied with Prosper ISD’s own policy which tells employees to report such allegations to Prosper police. Other school districts have similar policies.
The Morning News received a copy of the recording Thomas made of her meeting with Prosper principal Greg Wright, and it offers an explanation for why the school responded so forcefully to Thomas’s decision to go Prosper PD, as opposed to Prosper ISD police: “I’m all about the team. I’m all about PR and how this high school looks,” the paper reports Wright saying on the tape.
School districts do have their own police departments, and it makes sense that administrators—especially ones who are “all about PR”—might prefer to keep allegations inside the district. But not only does the school’s policy specifically say that they should go to the Prosper PD, other school district police department heads in the area also say that complaints like this are best handled by city police. The paper quotes Dallas ISD police chief Craig Miller saying that he refers all allegations of child abuse to DPD directly, saying his officers “are not trained as well as the city’s child abuse detectives.”
Principal Wright didn’t respond to a request for comment, but Thomas’s press conference appears to have been the opening salvo in a potential lawsuit against Prosper ISD for retaliation, so further statements are unlikely to serve the district well. But between the recording and the district’s own written policies, it’s not a good look for the school.