OKLAHOMA CITY - Legislation aimed at protecting students from inappropriate relationships with teachers or other school employees is awaiting House consideration after being approved by the full Senate.
Senate Bill 716, written by Senator Jonathan Nichols would raise the age of consent specifically for situations dealing with students and their teachers or other school personnel.
"I believe that most parents tell their children to obey and trust their teachers implicitly when they go to school, believing those educators and others in the school system will have their children's best interests at heart. This legislation will protect against any abuse of that trust," said Senator Nichols.
Under current state law, the age of consent for a sexual relationship is sixteen-years of age. An adult having sexual relations with someone under the age of sixteen can be charged with rape. Senate Bill 716 would raise the age of consent to eighteen-years of age when the individuals involved are students and teachers or other school employees in public, private and public vocational schools.
"Many people would be surprised to know that under current law, there's little police and prosecutors can do when a parent learns that their sixteen or seventeen year old child has been involved in a sexual relationship with his or her teacher," said Senator Nichols.
"Of course we all know that the vast majority of all educators would never harm or take advantage of their students in any way. But sadly, we know it does happen in isolated situations in communities across our state. When it does occur, prosecutors need to have the legal tools to address the situation," noted Nichols.
The Norman Republican said area prosecutors who requested that this situation be addressed by lawmakers had contacted him.
"As a parent, as a former prosecutor and as a legislator, I feel we have a moral obligation to make sure that the classroom environment is as free from disruptive behavior as possible. This legislation will be one more measure that protects the classroom setting from outside interference," said Nichols.
The full Senate passed Bill 716 senate without opposition. This was the second piece of legislation by the freshman lawmaker to win unanimous approval this session.