Texas school districts now have access to a list of educators who have been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with students.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) unveiled its “Do Not Hire Registry” this week to serve as an informational database for school administrators.

State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), who sponsored the bill creating the registry, spoke of the need for the database, “This has been a problem that’s been around the state of Texas for years, there’s been a problem with adults in the education system preying upon kids.”

Bettencourt’s bill was backed in the Senate by Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and in the House by Representative Dan Huberty (R-Houston).

Locally, Sonora High School Principal Sean Leamon commented on the new TEA mandate from an administrative standpoint. Leamon said he is glad to see that the “Do Not Hire Registry” bill is now active and he thinks it will be a valuable resource for school districts statewide.

“I think it will help. Sometimes districts are eager to hire teachers before the start of the school year and they may not have time to discover everything about those they are hiring. This lets you know. Leamon said. “We are entrusting our greatest assets (students) to these people. They spend a lot of time with students on campus and away from campus when they travel for school events. As an administrator, I can’t be everywhere to monitor what is going on. I think this bill will be good for everybody. It will help us better protect pur students. It may also help deter the behavior of inappropriate relationships with students.”

Additionally, Leamon said the ease of access to this list will be especially good for districts like Sonora that designated as districts of innovation.

According to the TEA, the bill requires schools to report certain allegations of misconduct against non-certified employees. Also, it created a registry of individuals who are not eligible for hire in a Texas public school based on misconduct or criminal history.

The TEA provides a list of frequently asked questions concerning the registry on its website. Those questions include:

1) Where is the Do Not Hire Registry located? The registry is a confidential application in TEAL (TEA Login) that schools may search by uploading names and personal identifiers. The registry application will list individuals who are under investigation or ineligible for hire.

2) How can schools gain access the Registry? Schools may request access the registry the first week of January 2020. Public school districts and charter schools can request access through their existing TEAL accounts. Private schools accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC) should request a TEAL login account and then request access to the registry application. Other private schools may submit a request for access through the TEA Help Desk.

3) Will public schools be able to see Registry information by using the fingerprinting “green screen?” Yes, the registry status will also be listed as a new field in the fingerprinting upload results. Therefore, whenever a school district uploads names in the fingerprinting green screen, the system will return the fingerprinting status and the registry status.

4) What should schools do if an applicant for employment or current employee is listed on the registry? School districts, districts of innovation, charter schools, regional education service centers and shared services arrangements must fire or refuse to hire any individual listed on the registry of persons ineligible to work in public schools. Failure to do so can result in a material violation of a charter school’s charter, termination of a district’s designation as a district of innovation, a special accreditation investigation and resulting sanctions for a school district, and SBEC discipline of individual certified administrators.

5) Will the public be able to see who is on the registry? By April 2020, TEA will launch a webpage where members of the public can search the registry by name. Privacy laws prevent the agency from publishing Social Security numbers or dates of birth accessible by the public. Therefore, members of the public will only be able to see the name and status (“under investigation” or “ineligible for hire”) of any individual on the registry.