Teacher-Student Relationship Bill Drawing Controversy

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    no description (Published Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014)

    A Maryland lawmaker is trying to close a loophole in state law that allows part-time teachers and staff to escape prosecution for having a relationship with a student.

    However, one community organizer is worried that the attempt to close one loophole has opened another: The bill would exempt teachers and staff who are 21 years old.

    The bill was prompted by the case of track coach Scott Spear, who was arrested and charged with having sex with a member of the Richard Montgomery High School track team in Feb. 2012. The charges were dropped because Spear was not the girl's full-time teacher, just her coach.

    "Right now we have a 47 year old who is going off scott-free for having sex with a 16 year old because we have no law," said Maryland state Senator Jamie Raskin.

    Spear maintains his innocence. Still, the case prompted Raskin to draft a bill to create penalties for part-time staff and volunteers who have sex with students.

    "We are trying to expand the law so people like this cannot escape through this loophole," he said.

    But the bill excuses 21-year-old teachers and staff who have sex with students as young as 14.

    That's because similar bills have failed in the past, Raskin said. "We hear objections from some people: 'Well, you could have a 19-year-old volunteer coach who graduated two years ago who's involved in a relationship with a 17-year-old,' We should get rid of the guy, but not send him to jail," Raskin said. "That's the problem we are dealing with."

    The exclusion has led to criticism. "This is a bad bill," Karen Coakley, president of the Beltsville Citizens Association, adding that she is emailing public officials to stop the bill.

    The Prince George's school board will review the bill, a board member told News4, because it could affect the school district whether it passes or not.

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