Loophole awaits legislature

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It's hard to imagine anyone in their right mind arguing that it's OK for a high-school teacher to have sex with a student.

But Georgia's Supreme Court Monday said while it isn't OK, it also isn't necessarily illegal. And lawmakers had better put the issue on their front burners to close this loophole.

The case began in 2006 with the arrest of Melissa Chase, a former Harlem High School teacher and coach who had a single sexual encounter with a 16-year-old student and was sentenced in 2007 to 10 years in prison.

Georgia's age of sexual consent is 16, and the student admitted initiating a relationship with Chase. But Augusta Superior Court Judge Carl Brown refused to allow Chase's attorney's to use the student's consent as a defense, and the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed.

However, in a ringing 5-2 ruling Monday, the state Supreme Court said Chase should have been allowed to use consent as a defense. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears went even further: "... Under our reading of the statute ... Chase's conduct with (the student) was not a crime because (the student) was over the age of consent when the sexual contact occurred."

In essence, the ruling agrees with Chase's defense attorneys and the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who point out that state law fails to rule out consent as a defense in cases involving students and teachers, while explicitly doing so for, among others, jailers and inmates or psychotherapists and patients.

Assistant District Attorney Charles Sheppard tried to wish away the loophole, arguing that the justices should "broadly" interpret the law to prevent teachers from claiming they had consent of students in a relationship.

The Supreme Court swatted away such a call to activism. Sears wrote, "The District Attorney's passion for protecting school-age children is admirable. However, to accept these arguments would be to legislate by judicial fiat," and would represent interference with the role of the legislature.

That legislature must now focus its effort on amending the law. The law should recognize the difference between 16-year-old high-schoolers engaging in inappropriate contact with teachers, and adult-age college students engaging in relationships with professors. The former must be illegal; the latter should merely be a violation of school conduct policies.

No one, least of all the Georgia Supreme Court, contends that sex between a high-schooler and a teacher is a good idea. But until lawmakers fix the law, it isn't necessarily illegal.

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Riverman1
94464
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Riverman1 06/17/09 - 03:45 am
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Agreed, it is a loophole, but

Agreed, it is a loophole, but let's focus on college professors. It is not illegal for them to have sex with students, but you say it is a violation of school conduct policies. I doubt one college in Georgia has such a policy. It would be interesting to look into the matter. I'll bet colleges will stonewall on such a question because they are happy with the status quo. Show me one incident of a professor in Georgia being fired because of sex with a student.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 06/17/09 - 05:42 am
0
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Promoting the gay agenda is

Promoting the gay agenda is more important than protecting our children. This "interpretation" of the law may be p.c., but it's not in holding with the intent of this law.

blamar
0
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blamar 06/17/09 - 05:45 am
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What about the military? A 23

What about the military? A 23 yr old Sergeant can be fried for having sex with a 32 yr old Private. And Lord help you if that Private is on "trainee" status!
Rules, regs and laws in cases like these are there to use at discretion. If it is a true case of improper influence or coercion, the tools are there to make the punishment hurt. If not, let it slide away quietly.

HotFoot
17
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HotFoot 06/17/09 - 06:13 am
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"The gay agenda"....where

"The gay agenda"....where does the law discussed here distinguish between homosexual and heterosexual encounters? It doesn't. You're conveniently interpreting to further your own homophobic perspective.

Bizkit
35764
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Bizkit 06/17/09 - 07:27 am
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Riverman most schools have

Riverman most schools have "sexual harassment" policies which apply, but few times have I seen them applied to successful college professors. Now if you don't have a grant and are struggling then they will give you the boot. However the age of consent is 16 so the women should have never been charged as well as penalized.

Bizkit
35764
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Bizkit 06/17/09 - 07:31 am
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Public school teacher get

Public school teacher get paid squat so why not let them have their little perks. These students likely have been sexually active and with more partners at 16 than we our whole lives. We act like these "kids" are innocent-how naive. hee,hee,hee. They do need to apparently pass a law to protect teachers from predatory students.

Riverman1
94464
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Riverman1 06/17/09 - 07:41 am
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Bizkit, thanks for the reply

Bizkit, thanks for the reply and info, however my bet stands. I'll bet there has never been one professor disciplined for having sex with a college student. The sexual harrassment policies don't address consensual sex between professors and students. The few times you saw the sexual harrassment policy applied to professors, was it for consensual sex with students or more a case of the professor forcing himself (or herself) on someone by intimidation?

Little Lamb
49318
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Little Lamb 06/17/09 - 08:12 am
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If the student actually were

If the student actually were taking classes from the teacher, there would be an authority problem. But in Chase's case, the student was not taking classes from her. And since the "pursuer" seems to be the student rather than the teacher, and since the pursuer is above the age of consent, I see no legal harm. Morally wrong? Yes. But illegal? No.

southernguy08
532
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southernguy08 06/17/09 - 08:47 am
0
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Mary Kay LaTourneau and
Unpublished

Mary Kay LaTourneau and Pamela Rogers prove that if you're female and attractive, you can get away with it, at least for the first time. Before you call my comment sexist, check the record. Both of these women were let off for the first offense on probation. Let an older man try that with an underage female and he'll be locked up immediately, as he should be. My question is, how is this equal treatment under the law?

used2Bjonny
1
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used2Bjonny 06/17/09 - 11:45 am
0
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Very simply: college students

Very simply: college students are adults. We allow adults to make mistakes if they want to. It would violate a code of conduct to give a student a better grade, or to intimidate a student, but there's no reason it should be illegal for one adult to have consensual sex with another. A 16-year-old, on the other hand, may have reached Georgia's age of "consent," but that child is still a child. The teacher has a custodial relationship with that child, and it is appropriate for the legislature to fulfill its responsibility and legislate. It should definitely be illegal for a teacher to have sex with a minor--not sure how we even end up debating that one. Military personnel are subject to the laws of civilian society, but ALSO to the UCMJ, which has provisions regarding fraternization, adultery, and the like. I'm not going to be the one second-guessing the military about what works and what doesn't, because I had friends in the service back in the 1970's who talked about what an unbelievable crisis the Armed Forces were in then, and they have created a whole new reality in a short, short time. Wish our schools would do the same...N.B.-soldiers don't get any more $ than teachers do...

southernguy08
532
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southernguy08 06/17/09 - 12:37 pm
0
0
USED, it isn't that simple.
Unpublished

USED, it isn't that simple. Allowing fraternization between college students and professors could open up a big legal can of worms.
College professors could use such a relationship and in a sense blackmail students into sex for higher grades. Students could do the same to professors. And don't say it couldn't happen. The rules not allowing fraternization between these "adults" are there for a good reason. Not allowing such fraternization between adults and children must be mandated. If not, any sexual deviant can and will claim that his or her relationship with a minor is not illegal and therefore allowed. Imagine the danger that would cause to our children. I agree with the AC...fix this loophole now!!

dougmo
12
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dougmo 06/17/09 - 02:53 pm
0
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The way the law is written

The way the law is written now, it is illegal to have sexual relations with a student if they are in school at the time. Even if the child is of consentual age, that part of the law still applies.
I think the ruling stated that since there was no school during the affair, the age of consent was a valid defense. Someone correct me if I am wrong.

Little Lamb
49318
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Little Lamb 06/17/09 - 03:03 pm
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To DougMo: What do you make

To DougMo: What do you make of this sentence from the article above? "Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears went even further: "... Under our reading of the statute ... Chase's conduct with (the student) was not a crime because (the student) was over the age of consent when the sexual contact occurred.""

Little Lamb
49318
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Little Lamb 06/17/09 - 03:06 pm
0
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If a sixteen-year-old can

If a sixteen-year-old can consent to sex, he/she should be able to consent with anyone he/she wants (who is legally able to consent that is). It is only logical that most available partners would be older than the sixteen-year-old. If the sixteen-year-old pursues a teacher, "consent" would indicate that there is no crime.

Bizkit
35764
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Bizkit 06/17/09 - 05:17 pm
0
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Let me see-four of my mentors

Let me see-four of my mentors were having affairs with students. One professor I knew would take nude photographs of female students which he had volumes of books going back thirty years. He had a photo studio in his basement. He showed me a girl I was thinking about asking out. It is very common.

jamesj
0
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jamesj 11/28/09 - 08:25 am
0
0
You guys are sick...

You guys are sick...

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