BOSTON — Carol Adler was just 16 when her high school English teacher first started
making advances. Ms. Adler said those moves turned sexual during her junior year, after her father died and she was most vulnerable.
For the next two years, Ms. Adler said she and the teacher continued the affair, even though he was more than a decade her senior and married with two small children. Ms. Adler said the relationship filled her with remorse and a guilt that lingered into her adulthood.
"I was derailed," said Ms. Adler, now 49 and a mother of three. "It wasn't until my children got to that age that I looked back and said, 'My God, that was why I had such a difficult time.'"
Ms. Adler, who now lives in Mattapoisett, only recently reported the relationship to school officials in Quincy, where she attended high school.
Now Ms. Adler is pushing a bill that would make sexual intercourse between teachers and students under 18 a criminal offense, regardless of consent. The bill is slated to come up for a public hearing at the Statehouse today.
While sex between adults and anyone under the age of 16 is already covered by statutory rape laws, there is no criminal prohibition on teachers engaging in consensual sexual relations with students 16 or over.
Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, the bill's sponsor, said that although sex with a student can cost a teacher his or her job, the possibility of jail time would add another layer of protection for students.
"There's nothing clearer than a deep, thick line that says if you break this line you will be held criminally liable," said Sen. Montigny.
The proposed legislation would protect students who, while older than the age of consent, are still young enough to be taken advantage of by an older teacher, according to Sen. Montigny.
"The loophole exists at that very vulnerable age where you're just beyond where you're considered a minor, but you're still clearly under the control — and on the losing end — of the power dynamic," he said.
The dynamic that exists between a teacher and a student negates consent regardless of the age of the student, according to Sen. Montigny.
"There is no consent between a teacher and student," he said. "In the teaching environment, there is never an excuse for that type of abuse."
Michael Shea, superintendent-director of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical School, said a sexual relationship with a student would be grounds for automatic dismissal of a teacher in most school districts.
Layering a criminal penalty on top of the dismissal makes sense if the student involved is under 18, he said.
"It doesn't matter how old the student is," said Mr. Shea. "A student is a student, and a teacher is a teacher. I would support (the legislation), because I still think students at 17, 17½ are not at that point to make that decision."
Continued at South Coast Today