Weekly Feature

2018-06-07 / Local News

Senate passes bill protecting schoolchildren from predators, abuse

Jacobs Jacobs The state Legislature has passed a law that will provide greater protections for children by making it a criminal offense for a teacher or school employee to have a sexual relationship with a student younger than 21, according to state Sen. Chris Jacobs.

“Children need to be protected from teachers and others in positions of power in our schools who may manipulate them into engaging in sexual activities, even if they are at the age of consent,” Jacobs said.

The legislation also defines school employee to mean any person defined as an employee or volunteer for that school.

“Basically, any adult at the school with direct student contact, in a position of trust,” said Jacobs, about whom the law would cover.

Currently, teacher/student sexual relationships are not illegal if the student is over 17. Many instances have occurred around the state where teachers cultivate a relationship with a student and then turn it into a sexual one as soon as the student turns 17 years old.

Earlier this year, a report revealing issues of sexual abuse at the Nichols School in Buffalo highlighted such a relationship between a 17-year-old student and a 48-year-old teacher that was not illegal under current state law because the relationship was consensual.

“No matter their age, we need to protect our children while in school,” Jacobs said. “By criminalizing these relationships and defining school employee to include teachers, non-education-related service employees and volunteers, we are taking major strides to ensure the safety of our children in an environment where parents have every right to expect they will be protected.”

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