This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.
Schoolteachers shouldn't have sex with students.
When they do, they should face criminal charges.
State law isn't clear enough on that point, according to a Washington Court of Appeals panel that ruled in favor of a schoolteacher accused of having sex with a student. Fortunately, lawmakers who went into legislative session Monday are acting quickly to provide that clarity.
The law in question refers to "sexual misconduct with a minor," and in Washington an 18-year-old is not a minor. So a Hoquiam High School teacher who allegedly had sex with an 18-year-old student will not be tried on a sexual misconduct charge. However, teacher code of conduct rules forbidding any sexual contact with students do apply, and the teacher's dismissal should stand.
The student in the case says she had a months-long relationship with her 33-year-old choir teacher that began before she graduated. He denies any relationship took place.
Some might argue that at 18 – two years past Washington's age of consent – students are old enough to make up their own minds about sexual relationships. And that is generally so. But there's good reason for it to be illegal for schoolteachers to have sex with any students, despite their age – and it's the same reason it's illegal for prison guards to have sex with prisoners.
To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.