Rhode Island · School Talk

Both Teachers’ Unions Oppose Bill That Would Make Sex with Students a Crime

Yesterday at a hearing for a bill (HB 5817) that would make sex between school employees and students a crime—even after they’ve turned 16, the legal age of consent in Rhode Island—both teachers’ unions made their objections known. NEA RI didn’t have anyone testify but Pat Crowley did sign in to the hearing and note his opposition to the bill. I suspect the NEA also submitted written testimony. James Parisi of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) did testify—in fact, we sat beside one another, each offering our very different opinions on the bill.

As it currently stands, Rhode Island is one of a few states where it is perfectly legal for teachers and other school employees to have sexual relations with their students once they turn 16. It’s literally a dirty little secret—almost no one seems to be aware of this loophole in the law and yet it leaves high school students without any protection from those who would sexually abuse them after their 16th birthday. We are also a state who, after a year long investigation by USA Today, received a grade of D for how well we track and share information about teachers who are also alleged abusers.

Parisi expressed that the UFT’s opposition to the bill lies mostly in the fact that it singles out school employees. He wonders why “store managers” aren’t included? Last time I checked, children aren’t, by law, in the custodial care of store managers from kindergarten through 12th grade. He wondered why clergy and the legislature weren’t also included in the bill but again, unless their role as clergy and legislators includes custodial responsibilities of children, his examples aren’t logical in this context. If the member of the clergy also teaches at a school, then yes. If the legislator is also a high school basketball coach, then yes.

In all honesty, to a small extent, his point is well taken. There is no reason why the protection of children shouldn’t extend to all adults who are in positions of authority or acting “in “loco parentis” when they are with minors. Plenty of states have that broader language written into their consent laws. But to equate a store manager with an 11th grade teacher or school bus driver is patently absurd and insulting to parents who think this bill is a long over due slam dunk.

Parisi also claims that this isn’t really a problem here and that the loss of one’s current job and state teaching license is punishment enough. I’m sorry, what? Just because he has somehow decided this isn’t an issue doesn’t mean that we should continue to be a state where sex between teachers and students is legal. And Parisi, and every other person employed by a teachers’ union, are well versed in the very grim reality that sexual predators move from district to district and state to state—termination and loss of licensure are not sufficient deterrents and certainly do not protect children. Sure—it may help us get rid of abusers but I hope we aren’t ok with sending people who harm our students off to other states where they can hurt the children there. In a 2018 report, NPR’s Erin Logan says this:

“That cycle — abuse, dismissal, rehire and abuse again — is one that experts and researchers say is far too common across the nation. It has long been known as “passing the trash,” and despite years of efforts to make policies to keep it from happening, no one really knows how often it does.”

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel because plenty of states have language that protects students, under the law and if we can broaden it even more in the future, then great. But we currently have a bill on the table that at least does the job of addressing the issue in our schools.

Here are a few examples of how other states do it so much better than we do by including a clause about people in positions of authority:

I personally think I like the Michigan law best since it’s protects students beyond the age of 18 and until they’ve graduated.

The video of our testimony in front of the house judiciary committee begins here at 1:22:13 —unfortunately, most members of the committee were gone by the time Mr. Parisi and I testified. I assume they are members of other committees that had hearings happening at the same time, which was the case for my representative, Alex Marszalkowski, who sponsored the bill I was there to support. It’s too bad that attendance was so sparse because I would have enjoyed the opportunity to speak about this with more than just the handful of legislators who were left in the room. I am confident that most, if not all, would have been surprised to learn that it is perfectly legal for teachers and school employees to have sex with students once they’ve turned 16. Hopefully, they will get up to speed, watch the testimony, and ask their constituents how they feel about being one of only a few states that appears to believe that sex between students and teachers should not be a crime.

Note: In my testimony, I make reference to public schools and public employees—mostly in the context of union pushback and compulsory education laws—but in hindsight I realize that it might have sounded like I was implying that the law would only apply to public school employees. That is NOT the case. It would cover all school employees (and vendors and volunteers) in all kinds of schools.

Here is the one year investigation by USA Today that I reference in my testimony. The graphic above showing how poorly we track disciplinary actions against teachers can be found at the USA Today link as well.


What do you think?

37 thoughts on “Both Teachers’ Unions Oppose Bill That Would Make Sex with Students a Crime

  1. Pingback: Hummel Roundup
  2. This is why you should not send your puppies to be educated by pigs, at pig run schools where pig values are forced on your puppies. Never send your puppies to be educated by pigs. (Animal Farm reference)

  3. Democrats are people with criminal minds — immoral, self-entitled, no respect for other’s rights, irresponsible, refusal to self-control. Children are not safe around Democrats; just ask millions of children they have aborted.

  4. No problem…how can we deny teachers sex? Don’t they have a constitutional right to have sex with people too young to know better? What’s the problem here?

  5. Now is there really any reason you should send your children to a public school? Private school teachers are not unionized. What teacher thinks that a law forbidding sex with a minor is a bad idea? Answer – Apparently public school teachers who support their unions.

    1. Thanks for reading and weighing in Dave —actually, this bill would also apply to private and parochial school teachers and school employees. But the union pushback has been very disappointing, though not surprising considering that they have opposed similar bills in other states. (MA and NJ are two examples.)

      1. Thank you for your reply Erika. You failed to point out that private schools have a strict no sex with students policy that is enforced. Coupled with a higher sense of morals on behalf of teachers and staff at public schools. I feel much safer sending my children to private schools where they will not be prey for degenerate teachers who have no control over their sexual needs.

        1. Actually, public schools have the same policy. In most cases, they lose their jobs and often their teaching license in that state—but law enforcement can’t get involved because it is currently not a crime. The goal of the bill is to make it a crime so that those educators/employees can’t just hop over to another state and prey on the kids there.

  6. If you’d like to do the research you’l find that your child is safer with a Catholic Priest than with a Teacher. We measure the number of victims in the Priest scandal in the thousands since the mid 1950’s…in the MILLIONS over the same time frame for members of the teachers union. Both vocations are entrusted with the education and care of children yet only one of them is vilified by the Democrat media machine…wonder why that is.

  7. As a teacher and a parent I am appalled that other teacher see nothing wrong with sex with a student no matter the age. It SHOULD be a crime for any teacher to engage in any sex act with any student that is in school.And there are plenty of teachers out there that feel the same way. We are not all Democratic nut jobs.

  8. Proving, once again, the teacher’s unions are more interested in protecting teachers at the expense of students.

  9. I went to school in Rhode Island and was sexually preyed upon by a teacher when I was 18. For anyone to stand and say this stuff — let alone teachers and their representatives — is obscene.

  10. Just goes to show you just how many teachers are having sex with students.
    All so it shows you just which teachers in the union have been doing it.
    Me thinks they doth protest too much teachers Union. Very very naughty.
    Should be an inquest into institutional pedeophilia in schools.
    They’ve shown their hand.

  11. School Attendance is REQUIRED by law! That what separates from these other groups that the union want included. If you are going to mandate attendance, you have to also mandate these essential protections as well!


    “16-19-1. Attendance required.

    (a) Every child who has completed, or will have completed, six (6) years of life on or before September 1 of any school year, or is enrolled in kindergarten, and has not completed eighteen (18) years of life, shall regularly attend some public day school during all the days and hours that the public schools are in session in the city or town in which the child resides. Every person having under his or her control a child, as described in this section, shall cause the child to attend school as required by this section, and for every neglect of this duty, the person having control of the child shall be fined

  12. This is why unions have outlived their usefulness. How anyone could, in good conscience, oppose this is far beyond my comprehension. And for a union to defend someone who has abused a child is just plain criminal – oh, I forgot, most union officials are crooks.

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