New Law to Ban Student-Teacher Affairs
article by California Teaching | April 04, 2012
In the wake of a recent case of an 18-year old high school student running away with her 41-year old high school teacher, California is poised to pass a law that would make it a felony for a teacher to engage in a relationship with a student regardless of whether that student is 18 or not.
Earlier this year, headlines were made after James Hooker, 41, a teacher at James Enochs High School in Modesto, California, quit his job and left his family for one of his 18-year-old students, Jordan Powers.
While the couple maintained that the relationship was not sexual until after Powers became a legal adult, the story caused controversy and has prompted action by lawmakers to prevent it from happening again.
“Our hope is that that will be a pretty strong and painful deterrent and will cause someone to think twice before starting an inappropriate, unethical relationship with a student,” the bill's sponsor, Republican Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen said to The Associated Press.
According to the new law, relationships such as the one between Hooker and Powers would be made a felony. Additionally the law would strip school employees of their pensions and retiree health care if they are convicted. The law is intended to also prevent teachers from ‘grooming’ students for a potential relationship when the student becomes an adult by also criminalizing any sort of seductive communication, including online messaging and texting.
“For his or her teacher to manipulate their position of authority and take advantage of that student is wrong,” Olsen said to ABCNews.
However, some are concerned about whether the law would cross ethical boundaries by including 18-year-olds in the law.
“It is the age when you are an adult. In California, a lot decisions can be made by kids under 18, the decision to consent to medical care, to birth control,” Professor John Myers of the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific said to KFSN News.
Joining the efforts is Powers’ mother Tammie Powers, campaigning to get the law passed.
“I plan on making this a national campaign in each and every state,” Tammie Powers, said to ABCNews. “I would like to see a national registry as a reference place for employers. … More or less it's kind of my way to channel this anger, frustration into something productive protecting students, protecting kids.”
If the law is passed, California would join 23 other states—including Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Connecticut and Kansas—in banning student-teacher affairs, with some making it a felony. However, Arkansas recently overturned one such ban.
“I don't want another child, another family, to be in this position. If this helps one child, one family, one, it's worth it to me,” she said to KFSN News.
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