Hot for teacher? In Arkansas, that's just fine. A vote last week by the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a state law banning teachers from engaging in consensual sexual relationships with students 18 years and older.
The court sided with 38-year old history and psychology teacher David Paschal, who was serving a 30-year prison sentence for engaging in a five-month sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student.
In 2011, Paschal was convicted of bribing a witness and four counts of second degree sexual assault under an Arkansas law criminalizing any sexual contact between a K-12 public school teacher and any enrolled student under the age of 21.
The Elkins, Ala., teacher will have this sentence reversed and dismissed.
The court found the former ban on student-teacher sex unconstitutional on the grounds that it criminalizes sexual relationships between consenting adults and determined that people 18 and older have the right to freely engage in a consensual sexual relationships.
“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,” wrote Chief Justice Jim Hannah.
Attorneys for the state argued that the ban protected students from sexual advances by authority figures.
“This will cause significant disruption in our high schools and have a deleterious impact on education in general and the teacher-student dynamic in particular,” Justice Robert Brown wrote of the overturning.
Paschal's defense attorney Casey Copeland said that his client was vindicated by the ruling.
“I think that this case does not necessarily say a teacher can do that and keep their job,” Copeland said. “I think the loss of job and loss of teacher's license might be appropriate for that, but it's not appropriate to put someone in jail for 30 years.”
The state has not yet announced whether or not it will appeal the Court's decision.
Last week, California assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto introduced a bill that would felonize sexual relationships between teachers and students. If the bill is successful, California will be the 24th state to ban such relationships.
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