Senate panel votes to protect students from predatory teacher

LANSING — Students across Michigan will be safer under legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, said sponsors Sens. Rick Jones and Roger Kahn.

Senate Bills 596 and 755, sponsored by Kahn and Jones respectively, would make it a crime for a teacher or other school employee to have sex with a student, regardless of being 18 years of age or older, if the student attends a school where they work. A person convicted of engaging in this behavior would be guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, which is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“Individuals who would take advantage of the teacher-student relationship are sexual predators and should be treated as such,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “These bills will close this loophole in state law.”

Kahn added, “We need these laws on the books now to protect our young people. It’s unbelievable that a teacher could have sex with a student and get away with it simply because the student is 18 years old. Teachers are in positions of authority over their students. To think that a young person in that situation can maturely give consent is crazy.”

Jones sponsored SB 755 after a local area prosecutor approached him about the loophole in the law that allows a teacher to have sex with an 18-year-old student without it being a crime.

Last December a 28-year-old male Ionia High School teacher took a student to a Kalamazoo hotel for sex the day after her 18th birthday. Despite being 18, the student was not set to graduate until June 2011.

An investigation was conducted by the Michigan State Police, but the Ionia County prosecutor is unable to prosecute because the victim was one day past her 18th birthday, even though she was a student.

Another measure approved by the committee, SB 726, would increase the statute of limitations for the crimes of kidnapping, attempted murder and manslaughter from 10 years to 20 years.

Jones introduced the measure after Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III informed him about an East Lansing case in which a young man died during a physical altercation 11 years ago. The case went unsolved until earlier this year, when information was brought forth that would have resulted in a manslaughter charge against the perpetrator.

“It is a tragedy that the family of this young man will not see justice served because of the current statute of limitations for manslaughter,” Jones said. “I am proud to sponsor this measure and hope it can help prevent future such injustices.”

SBs 596, 726 and 755 now go to the full Senate for further consideration.