Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 14, 2013 Virginia State Crime Commission Meeting: Child Sexual Abuse and Teacher / Adult-Student Sexual Relationships

I previously posted the agenda for today’s 11AM meeting for everyone to be aware of the topics. I also posted about the September 3, 2013 VSCC meeting and the two statements I made. 

Today’s VSCC meeting topics that I was attending for are below. 

Child Sex Abuse- (HJ 595)
The Crime Commission was mandated to review laws, policies, regulations and training practices governing reporting, investigation, and tracking of complaints of suspected child sexual abuse cases.
Originally HJ 595  directed the Crime Commission to study one issue but as with many bills and resolutions during the yearly General Assembly session it was merged with another study and has 2 different parts. 

Review of laws, policies, regulations and training practices governing reporting, investigation, and tracking of complaints of suspected child sexual abuse cases. 

               This Part 1 was the reason for the summer Work Group that I was an invited to be member. 

Review how often sexual relationships occur secondary school employees and adult students, and the creation of possible criminal penalties for this behavior.  

·         In the last 5 academic years in Virginia there has been a total of 14 known Teacher / Adult-Student, Coach/ Adult-Student or School-Employee / Adult- Student Relationships.
·         11 States have criminalized Teacher/ Adult-Student Relationships (see slide 17 from presentation) and only Arkansas overturned the law. In summary VSCC staff told the Commission Members they feel a Constitutional challenge of a possible new law would be upheld. 

They do not video the meetings and the audio that I have is too big of a file to load so I am sharing the statement that I gave to the Commission Members today with all of you here. 

I made a public statement to the Commission members today in regards to Part 2. 

My Statement in reference to Part 2:
Consensual Sexual Relationships Between High School Employees and Adult Students

Commission Members, 

Let’s look at this proposal logically, not emotionally. 

On a teenagers 18th birthday according to Virginia law they have stepped over that magical line of being a minor and into adulthood. All Adults must make tough judgment calls in life, including encounters with people of authority, like employers, police officers and teachers.  

If an 18 year old commits a crime, they will be charged and sentenced as an adult not as a naive minor.  

If an 18 year old has a sexual relationship with a sophomore or a freshman (depending on the specific act and the age gap); Virginia takes the stance that the 18 year old is a perpetrator and the younger participant is a victim and charges will be filed whether the 18 year old knew they had committed a crime or NOT. 

Let’s say an 18 year old Senior and a 22 year old Teacher rob a convenience store, together? They both participated in a criminal act, would the State NOT charge them as equal participants? I believe we would. 

Plus… many cases when a juvenile commits a crime in Virginia they will be charged, tried and sentenced as an adult….. not as a minor.  Knowing all of this….. We’re entertaining the notion that an 18 year old should be treated as an incapable child… released of any responsibility in this one particular situation. We can't have our cake and eat it too. (I know this is the illogical version, but it's the best known version. I was worried if I said this correctly people at the meeting not knowing the difference would think I had messed the saying up)

For a minute…… let’s consider some unintended consequences of this proposal. 

Consider the 19, 20 and 21 year old school staffers and volunteers in the administration office or cafeteria, those  who return to their Alma Mater to help students prepare for SAT’s or to coach their old team maybe during a summer camp and they re-connect with an old friend, flame or neighbor who is now an 18 year old Senior.  

What about the 20 and 21 year old “Student Teachers” who re-connect with the now 18 year old Senior? 

These examples aren’t so creepy… are they? They are age-appropriate relationships but they would become crimes if a one-size-fits-all law is adopted. 

If the teacher has not threatened, intimidated, detained or forced the 18 year old Adult…. and they did not bargain or promise a passing grade or a college recommendation then no crime has occurred.  

We have a Teacher Code of Conduct prohibiting sexual relationships with adult students. If a teacher violates that rule they will lose their job, their benefits and their license to ever teach again in EVERY state. In addition they will probably lose their home, maybe their spouse and possibly their children. Their future is bleak, their reputation is ruined. 

I propose a similar process for school employees, contractors, volunteers, all coaches, tutors and instructors of children. Create a licensing system and code of conduct for those positions….. then if they ever abuse their authority with a minor or an 18 year old student they too would lose their license and the ability to ever work in their field again. 

But…Don’t create a new felony… that’s a waste of State resources AND adds to the already existing issue of the Over-Criminalization and Incarceration of America plus the bloated Virginia Registry. 

If this proposal is implemented you’d be saying that 18 year olds are adults BUT they can only consent to sex under specific “guidelines” and with specific “partners”. Plus you’d be opening the door to expand that list of “guidelines” and “partners” at every future legislative session. 

Does a Teacher - Adult-Student relationship…. have an “ick” factor? Yes.  

Does it need to be a crime? No. 

               Thank you. 

The next and final 2013 Virginia State Crime Commission meeting is schedule for Monday December 2nd at 10AM and the draft agenda should be available on their website in the very near future.  

The December meeting is where Commission members vote on all the studies and proposals presented at the 2 earlier meetings. Their upcoming vote will decide to move a proposal forward to the Virginia Legislature to be debated and voted on by all 140 lawmakers at the upcoming General Assembly session or to “table” the proposal, not moving on to the upcoming session. A proposal that has been approved by the VSCC and sent onto the Legislature as a bill has a much higher rate of success of becoming law than an unstudied bill does.  

Articles about the meeting:

State to consider criminalizing sex between adult students and school employees

Crime commission discusses teacher-adult-student relationships

Changes to Virginia Sex Offender Laws Being Discussed

On a separate note:

An update on the VSCC members. 

  • Delegate Beverly Sherwood will no longer be a State Representative after the new Delegates take their oath in January 2014 including the winner of her District.
  • Today Governor McDonnell sent out an email announcing the retirement of Delegate Onzlee Ware of the 11th District (part of Roanoke).  Which means a Special Election for the 11th Distinct House seat will be needed and the Governor decides on that date which will most likely not be in time for the upcoming General Assembly session in Richmond. If you live in this district keep an eye on who the candidates will be and when the election date is set.
Thank you for following this blog!

Mary Devoy