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Posted at 3:53 PM ET, 01/15/2010

Teachers, students and sex

By Valerie Strauss

A 29-year-old female teacher and track team coach in Maryland's Anne Arundel County has been charged with three counts of fourth degree sex offense--a misdemeanor--for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male student. But if that had happened in Georgia, the teacher wouldn’t have broken any laws.

Student-teacher sexual relations are disturbing in all cases, but they are not necessarily illegal.

In Anne Arundel, Kristyn Nicole Breeds of Severna Park had been placed on administrative leave from Northeast High School by the time police became aware of the situation and investigated, a police statement said. She was charged yesterday because the alleged offense does violate state law.

But last month, in Cobb County, Georgia, a judge ruled that 36-year-old Christopher King did not break any laws when, as a teacher at Marietta High School, he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he approached the girl, calling her about a football game shortly after they had met.

Why isn't his alleged sexual relationship with the girl a crime?

Because the Georgia Supreme Court ruled last summer that when a student who is 16 years old or older consents to having sex, that willingness can be a defense for teachers facing sexual assault charges.

Judge Robert Flournoy accepted the defense, saying, “It’s gross, it’s awful, but it ain’t illegal.”

Meanwhile, in Washington state, an appeals court agreed with a 33-year-old teacher that he did not violate any laws either when he had a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old senior in his school.

The law is unclear, but the court agreed that it only protects kids younger than 18, even if they still are students.

I'm not a lawyer and know if a law can protect 18-year-old high school students from their teachers. And I know that some high school students can look like they are twice their age have sexual experience well before they meet up with a teacher.

That doesn't ever make it okay for a teacher to abuse the teacher-student relationship--and the law should protect young people (even from themselves) as much as it can. I'm going to guess that Georgia legislators are going to reconsider that law.

Any teacher knows--or should know--that an unbreakable rule of the job is to keep their hands off the kids. If they can't, there should be real consequences.

(The Associated Press did a five-year study looking at cases from 2001 through 2005. About 500 educators faced disciplinary or criminal action after charges that they had sexual relations with students, but only 10 percent of those teachers were women. The AP discovered that female teachers generally got much lighter penalties than males.)

What do you think about the differing laws?

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 15, 2010; 3:53 PM ET
Categories:  Teachers  | Tags:  teacher-student sexual relationships  
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Comments

I'm going to side with the Washington courts. If the girl/guy is 18, then they are legally an adult even if still in school. The will be charged as an adult if they commit a crime - the district attorneys won't say "well, you're still in high school, so we'll charge you as a minor." Either you're an adult when you reach 18, or you're not. If you are, then who you jump into bed with is your business. Personally, I think this hodgepodge of ages you're 'adult enough' to do something is ridiculous. You can exercise the most important power in this country, your vote, at 18, as well as get drafted to fight in a war, but you can't drink a beer or go play a few hands of blackjack or poker.

That's not to say I approve of student/teacher liaisons. I just think that, as long as the student is 18, you shouldn't be able to charge the teacher with a criminal offense. Fire them for gross misconduct, assuming sexual encounters with students are specifically proscribed in their employment contract. Or, if there is some sort of 'morals' clause, fire the teacher for violating that.

Posted by: SeaTigr | January 15, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Given the double standard of the U.S. judicial system, the Anne Arundel County teacher will get off with a slap on the wrist...if that...because she's a woman.

If it were a man in the same situation, he would be nailed to the wall and given a very long prison sentence.

Posted by: checkered1 | January 15, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if this should be illegal, but it should certainly not be allowed to stand. These people should immediately be fired and not allowed to come back to teaching - ever. A sexual relationship with one student is a gross violation of trust that a teacher must seek to establish and maintain with all students. Whether the law is enforcing this or school districts, it should be stopped.

Posted by: TheReflectiveEducator | January 15, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Anybody got a picture of the teacher? If she's hot, give her probation. If she looks like a dog, lock her azz up.

Posted by: AlbyVA | January 15, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

The local high school had a track coach arrested last summer for an affair with a student. (They were caught in the front seat of a car in a deserted farm lane--not only improper and illegal but tacky.)

A friend's sons were visiting their father in another state and texted her saying friends had notified them that the coach had been caught with _____________. She asked how they knew the name of the student when it hadn't been released to the media, and they told her the coach had been hanging over her at track meets with his arm around her and helping her put lotion on her shoulders and legs all season. They wondered why one of the female teachers whose daughter was on the same track team hadn't said anything. Good question.

Posted by: opinionatedreader | January 16, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Gender is important, also.
A guy putting lotion on her shoulders and legs all season? That sounds suspicious. But what if it was a guy putting lotion on HIS shoulders and legs all season?
There have been same-sex situations like this, too.

Posted by: KathyWi | January 17, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I hear what people are saying about the age of consent for an 18 y.o. but society disagrees with sexual relationships for doctor/patient and lawyer/client. Why wouldn't teacher/student be treated with the same deference? As long as that ADULT has the power to effect the student's future by manipulating playing time or grades, it remains a gross violation of trust and position to have (consensual) sex with that student.

Posted by: flabbergast | January 18, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

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