The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a law prohibiting sexual contact between teachers and underage students. In a 3-4 decision, Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote, "We cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts, and—"
—Wait. I'm sorry, what's that?
They actually struck DOWN the law banning sex between teachers and students? Seriously? So now it's just totally cool for old Mr. Scroggins the molestery Spanish teacher to plow the entire field hockey team, because of the constitution? Apparently so. The decision also overturned a sexual assault conviction for one David Paschal, a former English teacher who carried on a five-month affair with an 18-year-old student. The court ruled that they cannot legislatively interfere with sexual contact between consenting adults, no matter how creepy that sex might be:
"Regardless of how we feel about Paschal's conduct, which could correctly be referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts," Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote in the decision.
The issue presented to the court hinged on "Paschal's fundamental right to engage in private, consensual, noncommercial acts of sexual intimacy with an adult. We hold that it does," the majority said.
While I'm excited about what this legislation could do for my Lifetime Original Movie queue, the problem, obviously, is that consent gets muddy in cases where there's such a severe power imbalance. An 18-year-old girl might say she consents to sex with her 40-year-old teacher, but the opportunity for coercion in that dynamic is so huge that it nearly invalidates consent altogether. What if she was worried about her grades? What if she was afraid to contradict an authority figure? What if she idolized him? What about a vulnerable gay student (in Arkansas, BTW!) searching for any sympathetic and safe adult confidant?
Dissenting justice Robert Brown wrote:
For the majority to say that such authority vanishes when a student turns 18 ignores the realities of the student-teacher relationship...I cannot agree that a teacher has a right protected by our constitution to engage in sexual contact with a student.
To be fair, the law has no bearing on whether or not teachers found having sexual contact with students will be able to keep their jobs and/or teaching licenses (most likely they won't). Legally prohibiting 21-year-old adults from having sex with former teachers (which the proposed law did) seems intrusive and overreaching. And in the Paschal case, a 30-year prison sentence—for a crime that both parties ostensibly believed to be a consensual sexual relationship—is slightly bananas. But when the student is only 18, a high school senior, and still actively engaged in a student-teacher dynamic with the adult in question? Fuck yeah, legislate that shit!!! Did you make ANY good decisions when you were 18? Ugh. Creepers gonna creep.
(C) monkey business / Stockfresh.