AUSTIN, Texas - The governor of Texas announced a plan this week to help victims of sexual assault, human trafficking and inappropriate teacher-student relationships.
“Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our communities,” Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, said in a video statement. “Working together, we will ensure a safe or future for the Lone Star State."
Abbott's plan includes $14 million in additional funding to the state crime lab to target a backlog of rape kits, $22 million to create regional human trafficking investigation squads, increased penalties for traffickers and allowing the Texas Rangers (Texas' state police agency) to handle sex assault claims against state employees at the State Capitol, including legislators, according to KXAN.
Another key component is creating a "do not hire" registry of adults who have had illegal interactions with minors, barring them from employment at any school in the state.
A bill took effect in Texas back in September increasing penalties against districts, administrators and teachers who aren't in compliance with reporting rules. The law came after Dallas TV station WFAA's nearly year-long investigation into districts "passing the trash." It's a practice where districts allow administrators, teachers and other employees accused of inappropriate behavior with a student to quietly resign instead of firing them and reporting the incident to the Texas Education Agency as state law requires. That allowed them to be hired by other districts - and potentially harm more students.
Another proposal that circulated around the same time as the one that took effect in September 2017 would have also established the "do not hire" registry, but KXAN reports it didn't pass because of the estimated $1 million price tag.
Now, Gov. Abbott is pushing to resurrect it.
The Austin American-Statesman found a total of 893 cases were reported to the Texas Education Agency from 2011 to 2016. The Agency reported another 302 claims of inappropriate relationships in the 2016-17 fiscal year.