The New York State Senate today passed legislation criminalizing any school employee or volunteer who has sexual contact with a student, even if that student is at the age of consent. The bill (S1358A), sponsored by Senator Betty Little (R-C-I, Queensbury) is intended to further protect full-time students of elementary and secondary schools from employees who engage in inappropriate relationships.
Senator Little said, “Schools are supposed to be safe havens for all students, including those who have reached the age of consent. A sexual relationship between a school employee and a student is never appropriate. School employees, whether they are faculty, administration, coaching or support staff, are in a position of trust and power. Similar to licensing laws that, for example, prohibit sexual relationships between a therapist and patient, this legislation would offer students legal protection and serve to deter the conduct.”
This bill deems an elementary or secondary school student incapable of consenting to sexual conduct with a school employee -- banning sexual conduct between a school employee and a student. Violations would be a Class E felony and carry a sentence of up to 4 years in prison.
The legislation also addresses any adult that is in a position of trust in a school by defining school employees as anyone receiving compensation from a school district where services performed involved direct student contact. It would also include any person, other than an employee, who provides services to a school or school district which involve direct student contact. Twenty other states have recognized the seriousness of the issue and criminalize this conduct under their current statutes.
The bill will be sent to the Assembly.