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Montgomery County Legislator Calls for 'Wholesale Revision' of State's Sex Offender Laws

Sen. Jennie Forehand, Dist. 17, says the state laws fall short.

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, against Scott Spear, a former part-time track coach at and a full-time teacher at , that he engaged in .

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 , 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 Senate Bill 893, titled "Coaches - Sexual Contact with Minors - Prohibition," was withdrawn by Sen.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 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.

Extremely Disgruntled March 17, 2012 at 02:09 AM
I'm not condoning Teacher-Coach/Student relations, there truly needs to be a balance between Age of Consent and abuse of authority. If the AoC is only 16, then simply by definition, that person can procreate with anyone, yes ANYONE, they want to, that's 16 or older also. Depending on instances of an abuses of authority, in that "do this or else this happens," then that would be the opposite case, as in "coercion," which is a completely different, non-age-specific type of crime. If it is actually a consensual happenstance, AoC should overrule as this article states against Spear. If Congress wants to preclude typical teenagers from having relations, then they need to raise the AoC to 18, with only certain exceptions, but that really is not a realistic law. Lawmakers can't have it both ways, which is probably why the past 11 years of legislation hasn't passed. What is legal for some and not some others is NOT "equal protection under the law." What is immoral or unacceptable to some, shouldn't always be criminal. The Teacher/Coach issue should stay as an employment/disciplinary issue, as long as the student is above AoC. Ohio has similar issues with the way their laws are written. An Adult student can "legally" rape a College teacher and get away with it, the laws as written deny that Teacher any defense. Not well written, same for adult victims with Step-parents and Correctional staff. Consensual relations with Adults should be legal, but not in these types of "only-in-Ohio."
Pedsfs March 18, 2012 at 04:07 PM
I am not sure why the ban on sexual relationships with students is limited to full-time school faculty. I don't see an acceptable reason for any adult staff, faculty, or volunteer at any public elementary, middle, or high school to engage in sexual activity with a student at that school.

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