Haler proposes bill to protect all students from sexual predators
Legislation would close the '18-year-old' loophole used in a recent Richland case
The 2009 Legislature got underway yesterday with the usual pomp and circumstance, including swearing-in ceremonies for new members and good-natured ribbing between political parties.
Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, used the first day of session as a launching pad to get started on one of his most important priorities of the year: protecting all students from sexual predators at school.
“Students in our schools should be safe from being preyed upon by school employees, period,” Haler said. “There is a level of trust and authority that comes into the relationship between school students and school personnel. That sanctity of trust must not be violated – ever – no matter the age of the student.”
Haler said the current law is too vague and has led to two recent situations in which teachers who were accused of having sex with their 18-year-old students had the cases dismissed because the students were not “minors,” as defined by the statute.
“There is some ambiguity under the current law,” Haler said. “The way the statute is written, it looks like the Legislature intended the law to only apply to those students under 18 years of age. But we have many students that reach 18 years – and older – before graduating. Those students should have equal protections from the sexual misconduct of school employees. This is especially critical with our alternative education and developmentally disabled students.”
Haler said the Richland School Board was instrumental in bringing this issue to him after one of the incidents involved a Richland High School music teacher.
“I want to thank the Richland School Board for bringing this matter to my attention,” Haler said. “They are being diligent in their efforts to protect all of the students in their care.”
Haler's bill, House Bill 1013, includes language to protect students up to 21 years of age from sexual predators employed by the school district. The new language would apply to both first and second degree sexual misconduct with a minor.
The bill also includes new minimum prison sentences for first and second degree sexual misconduct – five years and one year, respectively – if the crimes involve a student/school personnel relationship.
Haler's bill has been assigned to the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee for further consideration.
The 2009 Legislature began on Monday and is scheduled to last 105 days.
For more information, contact: Brendon Wold, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7698
###Washington State House Republican Communications