One of the most fundamental promises of public schooling is that it is supposed to keep students safe while they are away from their parents’ care. When parents think about the safety of their children while at school, the last thing they should have to worry about are the flimsy laws that protect their child from a potentially predatory school employee.
In Georgia, it is currently illegal for a teacher to make any kind of sexual advance toward a student who they directly teach.
In both of these situations, if that were to happen the employee is supposed to be fired and not be able to work in a school again, but depending on how it is reported and if charges are pressed, that doesn’t always happen.
Expanding these laws has been a discussion since a court overturned the sexual assault conviction of Cherokee County high school wrestling coach Robert Leslie Morrow. Morrow, who was 27 at the time, had a sexual relationship with a student who was 16 at the time. They met at the school where he was a paraprofessional.
Although he was initially convicted of sexual assault in 2014, he was able to overturn it in late 2016 saying that he wasn’t technically a teacher so the law shouldn’t apply to him. And the court agreed.
Senate Bill 154 would change this by introducing a sliding scale of penalties for any adult school employee who has sexual contact with a student. The penalties and severity of punishment will increase based on the amount of power the adult has over the student in school and the amount of contact the adult and student have.
But Thursday, March 29 is the last day the bill has to pass the Senate before session closes. It passed the House unanimously on Tuesday after only being introduced on Monday.