Policymakers agree that teens need to be protected against the sexual advances of adult coaches, but, to date, no law has been implemented that prohibits part-time coaches from preying on their young proteges outside of school.
Two recent cases throw the necessity for such a law into sharp relief.
Last week, charges were dropped against Scott Spear, a former part-time track coach at Richard Montgomery High School and a full-time teacher at Julius West Middle School, that he engaged in sex acts with a high school student.
In a statement released by the Anne Arundel County State's Attorney's Office, prosecutors explained they were not able to pursue the case because of a "major flaw" in Maryland's state law.
"In this case, Mr. Spear was not a full-time employee at the school the girl attended. While he may have been her teacher when she was in middle school, he was not at the time of the allegations. The age of consent in Maryland is 16. Therefore, the State could not move forward on the charges and subsequently moved to drop the charges against the defendant."
Kristin Fleckenstein, a spokeswoman for the attorney's office, said it was a frustrating conclusion to the case. And it's not the first time this has happened.
Last fall, charges were dropped against Brian Funk, a coach at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, who exchanged lewd photos with a female student and showed her pornography. Funk was not a a full-time, permanent employee of the private school, therefore the state law forbidding sexual relationships with students did not apply to him.
"It would be nice to have this loophole in the law rectified so we don’t have to revisit this again in the future," Fleckenstein said.
But a law that would have done just that has already died in a Maryland Senate committee during the current legislative session. Senate Bill 893, titled "Coaches - Sexual Contact with Minors - Prohibition," was withdrawn by Sen. Verna L. Jones-Rodwell, D-Dist. 44, earlier this month.
Sen. Jennie Forehand, D-Dist. 17, a member of the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee, said in a written statement that the issue needs to be addressed.
"A teacher or coach at school has unique access to a minor with plenty of time to 'groom' a student and gradually bring them into a sexual relationship," Forehand said. "The legislature has been working on amending the sex offense laws for the last 11 years trying to address the issue of this sexual exploitation by a 'person in position of authority.' ... Clearly the law governing sex offenses needs wholesale revision."
Current state law specifies that an adult can be charged with a sexual offense if the alleged act took place during a time when the child was committed to that adult's permanent or temporary care. If Spear or Funk had engaged in inappropriate sexual activities with the students on school property or at a school-sponsored event, the county attorney's office would have been able to move forward with prosecution.
Speaking about the Jerry Sandusky scandal late last year, Lisae Jordan, an attorney for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told Patch that Maryland's laws inadequately addressed child sex abuse when it's committed by people in authority.
"The law fails to recognize that coaches ... like Sandusky always have that authority over the adolescents and the children that they're working with 24/7. It's unfortunate that our law differentiates between when the child is in his care and when the child is not in his care," she said.