Mike Kueber's Blog

August 18, 2012

A victimless crime?

Filed under: Education,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 12:19 am
Tags: ,

An article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently reported on the conviction of a female high-school teacher for having sex with several of her male students.  The defense had argued that this was a victimless crime because the sex was consensual and the students were at least 18-years old.  That makes sense.  Why would Texas criminalize sex between consenting adults?

According to Sec. 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code provides the following:

  • IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT.  (a)  An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee: (1)  engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works…. 

Even worse, this crime is categorized a felony of the second degree (up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine).  By contrast, the Texas Penal Code – Section 21.06 – which criminalizes sodomy – is a mere Class C misdemeanor.  Furthermore, the law against sodomy was declared unconstitutional by Lawrence v. Texas, 123 S.Ct. 2472.

Getting back to my initial question, does it make sense for Texas to criminalize the conduct of a high-school teacher having sex with her adult students?  The key factor in this analysis should be whether the alleged victim is capable of consent.  In the case of minors, most people agree with the rationale that a minor is not generally capable of consenting to sex with an adult.  A similar argument is made in criminalizing sex between psychotherapists and their patients.  But sex between professionals, such as doctors or lawyers, and patients or clients generally is not criminalized.  Rather it is treated as an ethical violation that can endanger the professional’s license.  Why not put such violators in jail?  Why not put a legislator who has sex with an intern in jail? 

Although we don’t want high-school teachers hitting on their 18-year-old students, I think civil and professional sanctions are sufficient.  There is no need to be threatening this Fort Worth teacher with 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines for each of her 16 violations.


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