Maryland lawmakers' push to expand 'person in authority' doctrine

Maryland lawmakers' push to expand 'person in authority' doctrine

As Andrea F. Siegel reports for the Baltimore Sun, the sex laws regarding a “person in authority” could get changed, if Maryland lawmakers manage to push the changes they want through the legislature. At this time, full-time teachers can have sexual relationships with students if they aren’t persons in authority – in other words, if the student goes to a different school – as long as the student is 16 or older.

Basically, prosecutors and lawmakers want to broaden what it means to be a person in authority in the context of cases like child molestation and other sex offenses.

Because as the law stands now, say prosecutors, other part-time employees like sports coaches are not thought of as “persons in authority” under which the employee could be charged for having a sexual relationship with a student.

“It’s kind of a silly thing,” says one Maryland prosecutor, as Siegel reports. “If you are a coach or a teacher who has control over children, it ought to be a crime.”

The push to expand the scope of what it means to be a person in authority in Maryland highlights the difficult nature of sex crimes and the age of consent. In Maryland, the age of consent is 16 or older.

A teacher who has a sexual relationship with a student 16 or older – especially if that teacher is also young and may have known the student for awhile – gives rise to the question: should the teacher (or coach) be charged with a sex crime simply because he or she is in some way a part of the school system?

Source: Prosecutors, legislators criticize ‘gap’ in school sex laws

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