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A student in a classroom.
Assembly member Kristin Olsen, a republican from Modesto, California, has introduced a bill that would make it a felony for teachers and students to have a relationship even if the student is legally an adult. Additionally the bill would seek to strip the teacher of their pension and health benefits if they’re convicted.
Olsen proposed the legislation after meeting with Tammie Powers, the mother of 18 year-old Jordan Powers. Last month Jordan Powers’ high-school business teacher, James Hooker, left his wife and three kids – one of whom was just a year younger than Jordan – to move in with his now-legal paramour. The two swore their relationship only became sexual after Jordan was legal, but thousands of emails and text messages tell a different story. According to Jordan’s mother, Tammie, the text messages prove Hooker pursued Jordan when she was still a minor.
Olsen’s bill would also criminalize that behavior. Engaging in “excess or inappropriate” communication with a student would result in the same penalty as a sexual relationship. Olsen says the bill is necessary to protect children from predatory teachers and in a statement says there’s a growing problem of school teachers and administrators taking advantage of students. She points out that 23 other states have similar rules on the books and a law here in California would help deter teachers from abusing their authority.
But, how big of a problem is this really? Can anyone tell a legal adult who they can and cannot have sex with? Say a teacher is willing to lose their job and deal with the social stigma of carrying on a sexual relationship with a student, should they also be subjected to criminal penalties?
Kristin Olsen, (R) California state Assembly member, represents 25th district including Modesto, the Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes.