House committee removes age gap from sex abuse bill -- Gazette.Net


ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers have removed a controversial provision from a bill that further restricts adults from having sexual conduct with students.

Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park has proposed a bill to close a loophole that currently lets part-time employees and coaches, substitute teachers and volunteers escape prosecution for sexual conduct with a minor.

Raskin’s sponsored a bill that broadened the definition of a “person of authority.” It included a provision that the minor had to be at least seven years younger than the person in authority for the act to be criminal. Raskin came under fire for that provision, even though he said he personally favors no age gap. The provision was included because some lawmakers think it’s too harsh to prosecute, for example, a 21-year-old coach in a relationship with a 17-year-old student.

The House Judiciary Committee removed the age gap. The full House is scheduled to take a final vote on the amended bill on Friday.

When asked about the House’s change, Raskin said, “Terrific.”

The Senate version of the bill, which still contains the age gap, has been heard in committee, but there has been no vote.

Maryland law criminalizes sexual contact between certain people who are considered to be in a “position of authority” and minor in their care. But the law is limited to principals, vice principals, teachers and school counselors, and it only applies to individuals who are full-time, permanent employees. It does not apply to part-time employees and coaches, substitute teachers or volunteers.

A 2012 case in Montgomery County illustrated the limit of the current law. A 47-year-old teacher and coach who was accused of having sex with a 16-year-old former student couldn’t be prosecuted because he was a part-time employee.

Dels. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville and Sam Arora (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring proposed similar but not identical legislation in the House that died in committee. Both have signed onto the House version of Raskin’s bill, which is sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore.