Senate set to vote on sex abuse bill -- Gazette.Net


A loophole that lets part-time school employees and coaches escape prosecution for sexual conduct with a minor could close without a controversial exemption for conduct between those close in age.

Maryland law criminalizes sexual contact between people who are considered to be in a “position of authority” and minors in their care. But the law is limited to full-time school employees including principals, vice principals, teachers and school counselors.

A 2012 case in Montgomery County illustrated the limit of the current law when 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.

Maryland’s Senate advanced to a final vote Tuesday its version of a bill broadening the law to include part-time and contractual employees as those subject to the law and close the loophole.

Sen. Jamie B. Raskin proposed the Senate bill, hoping to include all public and private school employees as well as volunteers and employees at sports and recreation facilities in its scope.

However, his bill included a controversial exception that came to be known as the “age gap” because it only criminalized conduct with minors at least seven years younger than the person in authority.

Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park said previously he included an age gap because it was sticking point with lawmakers in the past. He said he personally favored no gap, even declaring the House’s action last week to remove the age gap “terrific.”

Like the House, the Senate removed the gap and will vote on its version of the bill as early as this week.

But the two chambers’ bills still differ slightly. For instance, the House bill includes volunteers and those who work at sports or recreational facilities in the definition of persons of authority, while the Senate’s does not.