June 21 2009

Georgia Supreme Court Says Teachers Can Date Students

ga teacherThere are times where the mind just can’t comprehend some of the news it comes across… this is one of those times.

This past Monday the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-2 decision that it was legal for teachers to have sexual contact with a student so long as they were over the state’s age of consent, which is 16-years-old.  According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the case came before the court on the appeal of a conviction of Melissa Lee Chase after she was not allowed to present a defense where she would have said the student she had sex with, who was over 16-years-old, was consensual to the situation.

Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote:

Generally speaking, it is not a crime in Georgia to have physical sexual contact with a willing participant who is 16 years of age or older.

Between August and November 2006, Ms. Chase developed a relationship with a female student where she would have her over to her house for cookouts and to occasionally spend the night.  The relationship turned romantic and then eventually sexual.

Ms. Chase was arrested after the girl’s mother found romantic notes between the two.

During the trial, the girl testified that she was was the one who had pushed for the relationship because she had feelings for the teacher.  The prosecution objected to the testimony because they said consent was not relevant, and this was upheld by the judge.  Ms. Chase was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Chief Justice Sears wrote:

But the General Assembly did not specifically bar a consent defense when it enacted the state law making it a crime for a teacher to have sex with a student enrolled in school.

If it did bar such a defense, then a 30-year-old law school professor who engaged in fully consensual sex with a 50-year-old law student embarking on a second career would be guilty of a felony and face a minimum 10-year prison term.  That would be “truly absurd and unjust.

Richmond County District Attorney Ashley Wright said that she will be talking to the girl in the case to see what role Ms. Chase’s as an authority figure may have coerced the girl in any way.

It is well known how I feel about teachers having sex with their students, but if the law wasn’t written properly, it wasn’t written properly.  However, that being said, the law should now be rewritten and no matter what age or consent given, a teacher having sex with a student should be illegal.  While Chief Justice Sears makes a valid point about adult students, you would be hard pressed to find a college or university that doesn’t have a policy in place forbidding teachers from having relationships with their students.  I would even be okay with the law stipulating grade school, and then colleges, law schools, medical schools etc could set their own policies, but in grade school it should be absolutely forbidden.

Even if a student is of the age of consent, the situation between a grade school teacher and student is different than in any other educational setting.  You are taught from a very young age that teachers are your custodians from the time you get to school until the time you leave.  They have a very different relationship with their students than say a college biology teacher has with their students.  These people are, for all intents and purposes, like surrogate parents during your time there.

In short, fine, this law was flawed, this particular teacher may get out for now, but it still doesn’t make what she did proper or correct.  The state of Georgia needs to revisit the law, and every other state best look at their own to make sure they couldn’t have a similar problem.  Age of consent or no, just say no to grade school teacher student sex.

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  • And people say Alabama is backwars? (eye roll)

  • Jeffrey

    How is the quote from above, "That would be “truly absurd and unjust." make any sense. It obvious that it is more important to follow mans laws and totally ignore what is right and wrong. How can we tell our kids to trust teachers, but the state now legitimized its okay for the teacher to get in the pants of our children. Using the example of college students while "legally" may make sense there is no moral pointer and is therefore used to justify immoral actions. This should be a no brainer and I dont have to attend any college or university of law. It is now evident that all a judge or court needs to do is take the view point opposite of comman sense and still get paid.

  • Jeffrey

    The most disgusting thing is not the fact that a teacher got busy with a student. Its the fact that our government which was designed to protect the public, has forgotten its charter, allowing more incidents like this and God forbid worse.

  • Quan Tranh

    @Jeffery I would agree that the law is flawed; however, when these kids (high school or college) get out into the work force you will be hard pressed to find a company with a strict policy on dating within the company, or even dating your boss. If there is nothing "wrong" with it in the workforce I do not see a reason to criminalize it in the educational system since you have the same supervisor/worker relationship once you abstract it out far enough. I'm perfectly OK with relying only on the age of consent law. At age 17 in GA you are legally an adult and you can be tried for murder as an adult at 13. Seems like 16 is perfectly fine under the law for this sort of thing to happen. You also have to consider the cost to society for putting consenting adults in prison (again at 17 you are an adult in GA). I'm not paying $50,000/yr to put perpetrators of "victimless" crimes in prison, nor remove contributing members of society (the teacher/professor) from society. If the rest of you feel there is benefit to putting the perpetrator in prison then I suggest that you find someone else to pay for it.

  • Jeffrey

    I should clarify. As college students I would consider it okay. But never, never in the case of High School, Middle School. But the real question is at what price do we set the difference between what is right and what is wrong. At 40 I would not consider dating a 19 year old as a relationship. It would only be for lust. So I could not contemplate dating someone still in highschool unless I had just graduated high school or was in it myself. As a teacher I have to be wary of giving students a reassuring hug or vice versa, but now the state says its okay. Americans need to stop splitting hairs and finding different shades of grey. Wrong is Wrong