San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 25th, 2010
SMHS teacher charged in sex offense calls self an ‘idiot’

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William Shawn Harris.

STAFF REPORT

An affidavit for the arrest of a San Marcos High School (SMHS) teacher said he told his alleged victim in a sexual relationship that he was an “idiot” for allowing the incidents to happen, that he “broke down under the pressure of you” and was “so sorry” the incidents occurred.

William Shawn Harris, 34, remains in Hays County Jail on bonds totaling $120,000 for six counts of improper relationship between teacher and student. Harris was arrested on March 19 for six instances of sexual intercourse with an 18-year-old senior at San Marcos High School. The bond for each count is set at $20,000.

Harris, an assistant coach in volleyball and girls’ basketball at SMHS, was placed on suspension with pay on Feb. 24, when the school district began its investigation, said San Marcos CISD spokesperson Iris Campbell. The charges were filed and Harris was arrested by the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) on March 19.

Campbell said employees under investigation are put “on suspension with pay when the investigation is ongoing, whether it is the district’s investigation or the investigation is outside the district.” Campbell said the suspension with pay continues until there is a conviction, an acquittal or some other kind of decision.

An “outcry witness” told SMPD Officer Brad Follis that the SMHS senior told her of several instances of sexual intercourse with Harris starting last fall and continuing into this year. Four of the instances took place at SMHS — twice in Harris’s classroom and once in each of two bathrooms in the SMHS coaches’ offices. The affidavits given by Follis also said the student told him she had sex with Harris once at his home and once in her car as it was parked in a cul de sac.

The affidavits said that the female student “ended the relationship with Coach William Shawn Harris.”

According to the Texas Penal Code (Section 21.12), which codifies improper relationship between educator and student, “An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works and who is not the employee’s spouse.”

Improper relationship between educator and student is a second degree felony. Each count is punishable by imprisonment between two and 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000

Follis said in the affidavits that he interviewed Harris at the SMPD offices on video in the presence of the defendant’s attorney, Victorea Brown. Harris denied all the allegations.

This is Harris’s first year at SMHS. It’s his fifth year in the school district. He worked for the previous four years at Miller Middle School, former Miller Junior High School.

SMPD Commander Chase Stapp said he couldn’t discuss details of the case, but that an “outcry witness” would generally be a friend of the alleged victim or a trusted authority figure who takes the matter to the police.

On March 1, SMPD interviewed the outcry witness on video. Thus, according to the affidavits, SMPD obtained “a very detailed account” of the relationship between Harris and the high school student. According to the affidavits, the “outcry witness alleged that the female student had told her in explicit detail, over the course of several discussions, that she had engaged in a sexual relationship with Coach William Shawn Harris.”

On March 18, the day before SMPD arrested Harris, SMPD interviewed the alleged victim on video. During the interview, the female student confirmed the story told by the outcry witness, providing details about the number of instances and the locations.

“The female student became extremely emotional during the interview,” said the affidavits, “and expressed fear that Coach William Shawn Harris would lost his job, family, etc., as a result of her telling the truth about the situation.”

While the high school student was at the police department, said the affidavit, she made a call to Harris’s cell phone in the presence of two SMPD officers, including Follis. The call was recorded, as allowed in Texas when one party consents. A review of the recording, according the affidavits, revealed that Harris told the student that he was an “idiot” who “broke down under the pressure of you” and was “so sorry” when she asked why he took part in the incidents.

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0 thoughts on “SMHS teacher charged in sex offense calls self an ‘idiot’

  1. So, in no way am i saying that what the teacher allegedly did is right, but if she was 18 when it started, and it was consentual, I don’t believe that he should face any criminal charges and he certainly should not have to register as a sex offender for a lenghty period of time. I do believe he should lose his teacher certification as it would greatly reduce the chances of something like this happening with him and a student again. Your thoughts?

  2. I think I agree with you. What Harris allegedly did is morally despicable and should definitely cost him the opportunity to work in the school system ever again…..but six felony counts for doing something that in any other circumstance wouldn’t even be illegal??? That seems like overkill to me.

  3. The statute is pretty clear, the basis is the abuse of power/authority that a teacher has over a student.Due to the power difference an argument can be made that the act was not consentual.

  4. @ Wincester: Unless the girl was actually being coerced into the relationship due to his authority as a teacher then you can’t make that argument. It really is a stupid law. Sure, lose his job but unless there is evidence of rape then he shouldn’t be charged with a crime.

  5. Dear Anon, who is to say there was no abuse of authority/power? The basis for the LAW, repeat LAW, is that the position holds authority/power and that the presumption is there. It is the LAW. period, end of discussion. He violated the LAW, he doesn’t get a walk.

    Any other LAWS you think people don’t have ot obey if they decide it’s stupid? How about DWI? Manslaughter? Theft? Name a few please.

  6. The legislative intent is clear. The power differential is comparable to age, or inebreation. Therefore there is by definition, no consent.

    Mr. Harris’s responses are pretty limited. He can admit he was wrong and accept the consequences. He can insist he did no wrong, and prove his stupidity (he violated the law and he knew he did)

    Bottom line Harris is both too stupid (they ahd sex at the school) and morally lacking (he cheated on his wife) to teach. Will he go to prison for 12 years? No. Will he lose his teaching license? Yes. Will he get divorced? Maybe. Did he ruin his life? Yes, and he has no one to blame but himself. Do I care for this predator? No. The question SMCISD and society needs to answer, has he done this before?

  7. No one is debating that it’s the law. What we are saying is that it’s a dumb law. For that matter, ANY law that makes assumptions about the facts and doesn’t allow each case to stand on its own merits is a dumb law. It needs to be modified or repealed. You can’t lock a person away in prison for up to 60 years based on an *assumption*. There is simply no justice in that line of thinking.

    Did the girl in question have a class under Harris? Was she on the team he helped coach? Is there any reason to believe that he had any way to exert authority over her other than in his role as a school employee and hers as a student? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions. Presumably, the legal authorities do, and they may well have made the right decision. All we know is the story as it was presented above and there simply are not enough facts presented to the public to make anything but a general opinion. Personally, I prefer “innocent until proven guilty.”

  8. Do we allow statutory rape cases to stand on their own?

    Is it stupid to try and protect students form predatory teachers?

    “A review of the recording, according the affidavits, revealed that Harris told the student that he was an “idiot” who “broke down under the pressure of you” and was “so sorry” when she asked why he took part in the incidents.” Tends to offer a lot of evidence as to guilt.

    If we are discussing nonassaultive offenses, such as drug possession, we probably agree on the stupidity. May not be my thing, but I don’t care what you do. But in thsi case there was more than one person involved.

  9. He did it (several times), and thought he would get away with it.

    It always gets out however (especially with an 18 year old !!??).

    It was a (now public) exhibition of extremely poor judgement on the part of this 34 year old “educator”.

    John Wayne said: “Life’s tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid!”

  10. I understand and agree – if the student in question is not of legal age. However, we’re talking about an 18 year old here. If he had quit his job and slept with her the next day, there would have been no crime – but as it is, he is looking at the possiblity of decades in jail. There’s a disconnect somewhere there.

    If we’re holding people accountable for their relationships based on their “authority”, does that mean our police force has no right to a sexual relationship? After all, they are in a clear position of authority over the general population and because of that position of authority, (using the logic of this law) no one could possibly consent.

    For that matter, can rich people ever hook up with poor people? After all, the assumption must be that they have an advantage due to their increased resources. Smart people – forget hooking up with dumb people, your natural mental advantage makes you a predator. Heck, let’s just throw anyone who has sex with anyone who isn’t their absolute equal in jail!

    See how silly the whole argument sounds when you extend it to its natural end?

  11. Dano if you’re a Lt. in the armed forces and you have an affair with a Spec 4, it’s your head. Is it silly that if he quit and did the same thing, no violation, yes; but he was still a teacheIf you want the definition of stupid, here it is: cheating on your spouse, with an 18 year old, who is a student in your school as well, at the school, when you know it’s a felony.

    Just for arguments sake, where would you draw the line? What if she were 17? 16? 15? What if she were a he instead?

  12. The point of the clear language is deterrence and enforcement. Every teacher knows this law and knows it to be clear and without nuance. They cannot have sexual relations with a student. If they do, the law is easy to enforce and does not bring the conduct of the child into question. Any nuance, excuse or defense Dano would add to this law would inevitably mean that the child’s own conduct and sexual history would come up and the child would be forced to answer inevitable assertions that he/she seduced the adult such that he/she couldn’t resist. The student has been through enough.

  13. John,

    The only problem with your argument is that – also according to the law – an 18-year old in no longer a “child”.

    Winchester,

    I would draw the line where it’s already drawn for statutory rape charges. It makes no sense to me to have two separate standards for when someone becomes a “consenting adult”. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to me that the drinking age is 21, either.

  14. Well Dano, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Being a member of Protect.org will tell you all you need to know as to why.

    On a purely personal level, Mr. Harrisisi simply too stupid to be allowed to teach.

  15. I have heard through the grapevine that the young lady is the daughter of a police officer. or former police officer here in SM. Don’t know how valid the grapevine is, though.

  16. Am I reading this correctly? There are those of you who think it’s okay for a school teacher to have sex with a school student and maintain an ongoing relationship? Really? Perhaps it would be okay if this was your daughter? I sincerely doubt it.

  17. The law itself isn’t dumb, how it was enforced in this case is. Police and prosecutors have discretion in what charges they file – unfortunately, they prefer to go after easy cases. This is a slam dunk case: the police know he isn’t a dangerous criminal, the prosecutor knows the case law is clear here, and they all know the community and media will support them. The amount of time it will take the prosecutors, police, and staff to take this to trial (if it goes that way) is exorbitant and I personally think its a waste of money. Go after real criminals.

    If a university professor slept with a 17 year old college student (isn’t 17 the age of consent in Texas?), would it be illegal under this law?

    If college faculty didn’t date students, a lot of professors who wouldn’t be married.

  18. Publius,

    You are indeed reading this incorrectly. No one has said that what Harris did was “OK”. There is unanimous disagreement that this is not acceptable behavior for a teacher, and his ability to work in the school systems should be forever lost.

    The debate is whether the law that makes his “not OK” action a felony is a just law….whether it makes sense to charge someone with (six) felonies for sleeping with a woman who is, by law, of legal age simply because of his profession.

    As far as whether my feelings would change if it were my daughter in question, that would depend on whether my daughter were a willing participant in the relationship or she felt that she had been coerced into it.

  19. I have enjoyed reading some of the comments here. I have a few thoughts:
    The question of law in America is a joke. The only true “law” left in America is Common Law. So many victimless crimes go punished in our legal system to collect revenue for our great land that it has become a mockery of justice. Justice isn’t blind because the law is unbiased. Justice is blind because, ironically, justice is biased. The legal system is designed to make you plea bargain. I guarantee you, if this goes to trial, it will not be for a minimum of 9 months. Those are 9 months that he will sit in jail waiting, going to court every 2 weeks so that the “discovery” process can live out and his lawyer can keep billing him. And truly for what are we discussing? That he holds power over this girl?? Honestly people, this girl is 18 years old. In America, you are legally able to contract at 18 years old, meaning that you have total and complete responsibility for yourself. In America though, we love to make people victims and take away their ability to rationally think (ie: insanity defense, I’m fat because of my glands, etc). Let’s look at it for what it is people. He had sex with an 18 year old WOMAN. Whats the difference between this and a boss having sex with his employee? Maybe that should be a felony too. A boss has sex with an 18 year old “still in high school” intern and tells her that if she doesn’t have sex with him then he will fire her. Maybe she has a rough life and if she is fired she can’t afford rent, especially in this economically depressed time where finding another job may not be an option. Should we go ahead and file second degree felony charges on him? It doesn’t happen. Why? Because he get’s sued for sexual harassment. So why is this any different? If you step outside of the box, you realize its not. Its obvious he wasn’t holding rank over her because she would have went to the police on her own and not her friend. With the computer generation people are far too intelligent not to learn manipulation. She knew he was married. She still had sex with him. Her motives for reporting him are deeper. Either she wanted more and he was unwilling or she felt guilt for her situation and everyone told her she was the “victim”. He must have stopped the encounters and she used her friend to go after him. Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Now, am i saying he did something morally wrong? Absolutely. But did he do something to ruin his life, have a “$120,000” bond, face 9 months while he awaits trial and face 6 counts of felonies?! Hell no. That is insane. And if you can conceptualize that..you too are insane. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. We put people outside ourselves on pedestals so that we can avoid confrontation of our own life. But why? Why do we take victimless crimes and punish people for the sake of having a good ole fashion “witch hunt”? The difference between sanity and insanity is the perception of society. Now, some of those who are “conservative” will say, “but that’s the law.” Well, there was a time in this country where “taxation without representation” was the law, when debtors prison was the law. Do you remember your history? Now we are stuck in a society that makes everyone victims, helps people have 0 responsibility for their actions, and punishes people under laws designed to make this a crime under different circumstances. I say if you punish him for having the relationship, go ahead and punish him for cheating on his wife (breach of contract), punish her for adultery, and go ahead and punish her for retaliation. Hell, why you are it, go ahead and let’s punish half you people writing on here for violations of free speech because I find some of these ignorant sheep like statements to be offensive. Oh wait, maybe i should sue for that one because it falls under a different category.

    Take the guy out of jail, make him work and pay taxes so that our grand country that is 12+ trillion dollars in debt can one day afford to support the interest on our debt when we are not a AAA rated country anymore. That way this defenseless little 18 year old woman can have a happy home in a country headed for complete socialism and/or collapse and maybe we can think of some more baseless laws to throw some more sheep in jail and add more to that woeful debt number. (i know his crime is state based people, but once states go bankrupt, who you think is gonna bail em out…oh yeah, big brother). Gotta love it all!

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