It shouldn't surprise Maryland residents to learn that teachers in the state are prohibited by law from having sexual relations with students. But most people probably don't know about a legal loophole that allows part-time teachers, coaches and other school workers to avoid prosecution.
Last year we told you about a part-time teacher and coach who was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. The fourth-degree sex offense charges against him were eventually dropped because he was not a full-time worker at the girl's school. Furthermore, the girl was 16, the age of legal consent in Maryland. The case angered lawmakers, educators and parents alike and was the impetus of two recent legislative proposals to change the state law against sexual relationships between school workers and students.
One of the bills being considered by the House Judiciary Committee adds coaches to the list of school personnel who are prohibited from having sex with students, and eliminates the part-time worker loophole. Another bill extends the law to cover all school personnel, including janitors, cafeteria workers and any contractors, whether full time, part-time, permanent or temporary -- as long as they're over the age of 21.
In addition to the Montgomery County coach who was accused last February, there were at least two other cases in which part-time school employees avoided prosecution: One involved a part-time coach in Anne Arundel and in the other, a part-time teacher in Carroll County was accused of having sexual relations with a student. The legislators sponsoring the bills say they want to prevent cases like these from falling through the cracks.
If one or both of these laws pass, part-time school workers will need to be aware that despite the age of consent or lack of authority over a student, they may be subject to conviction of a fourth-degree sex offense, which comes with a one-year prison sentence and/or a fine of $1,000, not to mention the long-term damage to one's career. That final penalty may come even if the bills fail to pass.
Source: The Washington Times, "Legislators look to eliminate loophole in Maryland sex law," Julia Maldonado, Jan. 23, 2013
- Our firm defends Maryland residents who have been accused of sexual abuse and similar offenses. To learn more about our practice, visit our Maryland child sexual abuse page.