Massachusetts and Rhode Island share a dirty little secret: neither has passed a law that makes it illegal for teachers to have sex with their students. I know. It’s pretty unbelievable. While consent laws theoretically protect all students under sixteen, there is a window of time during which students aren’t protected under the law —basically from when they turn sixteen to when they graduate.
Obviously this is a non-issue for most since the vast majority of teachers do not engage in sexual misconduct with their students. The problem, however, is that the data tells us that even though the percent is small, the total number of students who are victimized is not small at all. Nationwide, for example, it’s approximately one out of every ten students. In real numbers, that is 5 million students.
I was pleasantly surprised to wake up this morning and see in the Boston Herald that there is a proposal in the legislature to fix this loophole that affects students in those final years of high school. Police chiefs are speaking out publicly in support of the bill.
From the Boston Herald:
A legislative proposal that would bar teachers and other school employees from having sexual relationships with their students by raising the age of consent within schools and expanding the number of mandated reporters is long overdue, police organizations said in a hearing yesterday.
The bill, heard before the Joint Committee on Education yesterday, had the backing of several police chiefs who said it would be “one more layer of protection” for children.
“There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of our children,” said Chelsea police Chief Brian Kyes, president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs Association. “This bill takes a giant step forward.”
State Sen. Joan B. Lovely, the bill’s lead sponsor, said, “I really don’t feel we in Massachusetts are doing enough to protect the children from sexual abuse. We need to protect children.”
But here in Little Rhody, our lawmakers are doing nothing on this and seem to feel no obligation to change that. And if our police chiefs are talking about it, I haven’t heard it. Amazingly though, our legislature found time to decide on what our state appetizer should be. (It’s calamari in case you’re wondering.) So perhaps while our legislators enjoy this long break over the summer, they can reflect on a few things:
It’s unconscionable that this law doesn’t already exist.
This will likely be a popular bill that’s easy to get passed and will have you looking like the hero.
Protecting children is perhaps the most important duty you have. And you’re falling down on that when it comes to this issue.
I recently had the privilege of discussing this issue on Dan Yorke State of Mind – Dan himself was pretty stunned that this law doesn’t already exist. But despite his invitation for lawmakers to come on the show and announce that they’d sponsor a bill, no one stepped up.
Well, maybe a little pressure from Massachusetts will help. I doubt Rhode Island wants to be the ONLY state not to be getting this right. If not for the kids, guys, do it to improve your image. God knows there’s no where to go but up on that front.