High school teacher accused of improper student contact
A Lockhart High School science teacher has been arrested after being accused of having an improper relationship with a student, the Lockhart school district announced Monday.
Sarah Fowlkes, who taught anatomy and physiology, was suspended from her job. The district also was notifying the State Board for Educator Certification about the case.
The district said it first received a report about the relationship March 10, before the start of spring break, and alerted Lockhart police and Child Protective Services.
“Lockhart parents entrust their children to us every day, and it is something we do not take lightly,” Superintendent Susan Bohn said in a statement. “The district does not and will not tolerate any improper communication or contact between a teacher and child.”
Bohn emailed Lockhart High parents Monday to notify them of the arrest and Fowlkes’ suspension. The superintendent also asked parents to speak with their children about what happened, and asked anyone with information about the situation to contact Lockhart police.
Fowlkes, who grew up in Dripping Springs, had worked in the district since October 2014. She previously taught third- and fifth-grade science and social studies at Plum Creek Elementary in the district, according to a cached web page now deleted from the district’s website. Fowlkes earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Edward’s University and went through the UTeach program at the University of Texas before earning an alternative teaching certification, according to that web page.
Fowlkes’ arrest comes as the number of reported cases of improper teacher-student relationships has hit record highs. Earlier this month, former Westlake High School teacher Haeli Wey was sentenced to 10 years of probation and 200 hours of community service for engaging in sexual conduct with two students in 2015. their employment prospects,” said Mark Wiggins, lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
The Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers also expressed similar concerns during the hearing.
Dale’s bill would require job applicants to explain the facts of the case and whether the accusations were true or false. A false accusation wouldn’t prevent an applicant from being hired, the bill says, but failing to disclose required information in the affidavit could lead to termination.
Dale told the subcommittee that the disclosure requirement is meant to keep teachers who have had improper relationships with students from quietly resigning from one school district to go to teach elsewhere. He referred to half a dozen such cases in Central Texas and an investigation by the American-Statesman, published in February, that found that teacher improprieties are often kept secret by school districts.
The Statesman set up a database to help the public identify former teachers accused of such misconduct and where they have worked in the past.
“It’s time that we fully address this issue and make sure that educators who have inappropriate relationships with students are not allowed to teach again,” Dale said.
Dale’s bill would also require school districts to adopt a policy to immediately notify parents of allegations that their child had been in a relationship with a teacher.
The bulk of Dale’s bill is the same as another sweeping measure — Senate Bill 7 — that the Senate approved earlier this month. Both bills would:
■ Allow teachers to be charged with improper relationship regardless of where the student attends school.
■ Automatically revoke a teaching license if an educator must register as a sex offender or receives deferred adjudication of guilt over an improper relationship with a student, among other offenses against minors.
■ Require principals, not just superintendents, to report teacher misconduct to the Texas Education Agency. Failure to report would be a misdemeanor.
■ Revoke the teaching license of an administrator who helps a teacher who had an improper relationship with a student get a job at another school district.
■ Require school districts to implement policies on proper teacher-student electronic communication.
Mark Wiggins, lobbyist for the Association of Texas Professional Educators, cited hiring concerns.