House passes Haler bill to protect all students from sexual predators
Legislation would close the '18-year-old' loophole used in a recent Richland case
Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, saw one of his highest priority bills pass the House of Representatives late Friday night: protecting all students from teachers and school personnel who are sexual predators.
House Bill 1385 would clarify the crimes of sexual misconduct in the first and second degree to include students over the age of 16 and under the age of 20 who have sexual relations with school personnel.
“This bill has been a long time in coming to this body,” Haler said in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. “I pre-filed this bill early on in session to show the serious of this matter. Our students – all of them, no matter their age – need to feel safe at school.”
Haler referred to recent court cases involving teachers that had been grooming their students and waiting for them to turn 18 years old before luring them into sexual relationships.
“Even though there was ample evidence the students were being groomed early on in the relationship, the courts threw out these cases because they said existing law was ambiguous, unclear and vague,” Haler said. “There's nothing ambiguous, unclear or vague about a school employee grooming a student for a sexual relationship – it's just wrong, period.
“There is a level of trust and authority that comes into the relationship between school students and school personnel,” continued Haler. “That sanctity of trust must not be violated – ever – no matter the age of the student.”
Haler said this is especially true with developmentally disabled students who often times graduate with their classmates but don't actually finish their school work until they're 18- or 19-years old.
Haler also said with the Senate's recent passage of a similar bill, the likelihood of addressing the so-called “18-year-old loophole” this session looks good.
Haler's bill now goes before the state Senate for further consideration.
###Washington State House Republican Communications