Teachers unions in Rhode Island object to horrible bill criminalizing sex with children

So Rhode Island’s state legislature is working on a bill that would make it illegal for teachers and other adults working in public schools to have sex with students. Sounds pretty good, eh? I mean, with the obvious exception of needing to ask why that wasn’t already a law in the first place. But still, better late than never, I suppose. So we should be able to move forward, put this one on the books and get on with our lives, right?

Not so fast. The teachers’ unions and the ACLU would like a word. They’re actually objecting to the bill. (Providence Journal)

The state’s two teachers’ unions are objecting to a bill that would make sex between school employees and students a crime if the students are younger than 18 years old.

Rhode Island is one of about 30 states — including all the New England states except Vermont — where the age of consent is 16 years old.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Alex Marszalkowski, D-Cumberland, says that any school employee — including bus drivers, vendors and school volunteers with supervisory authority — would be guilty of third-degree sexual assault if they have sex with a student between the ages of 14 and 18. (Under existing law, a person is guilty of first-degree child molestation sexual assault if he or she engages in sex with a person younger than 14.)

This is beyond remarkable. Who in their right mind thinks that it’s okay for teachers or any other adults associated with the school to have sex with students? Even if your state doesn’t consider it statutory rape above the age of 16 (say nothing of fourteen!) it’s a completely inappropriate “relationship” between children and adults who are placed in positions of authority over them. It’s the same principle that underlies rules against doctors having sex with their patients or managers with their employees. But it’s worse in this case because we’re still talking about children here.

Okay, so what are the objections being raised by the unions and the ACLU? A lobbyist for one of the unions said, “it criminalizes conduct by teachers and other school employees while ignoring the myriad other jobs in which adults supervise youth between the ages of 14 and 18.” The lobbyist cited examples such as legislator having sexual relations with pages, store managers, athletic coaches, and clergy.

Sure. I agree with that to a certain degree. We frown on all those things and if it involves children, perhaps an upcoming bill could address some of those concerns. Of course, the broader the bill becomes, the harder it is to push it through. Making rules about the clergy often makes courts nervous. Also, the division of power between the perpetrator and the victim isn’t quite as clear cut in some of the examples he cites.

But that’s not the real issue here. Just because the legislation isn’t stopping everyone from doing horrible things, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stop teachers from doing horrible things. Asking for the bill to be struck down on those grounds is nothing more than saying you’d like to reserve the right of teachers to start bedding sixteen-year-old girls. Do these people have no shame? Pass the bill.

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