Michigan bill would ban teacher-student sex under age 21

"When parents send their students to high school, they want to know that they're safe from somebody abusing them," the bill's sponsor says.

Teachers and other school employees would be prohibited from having sex with students under age 21 under a bill making its way through the Michigan Legislature.

The typical age of consent in Michigan is 16, but under current law it's a crime for a teacher or other older individual in a position of authority to have sex with a student under age 18.

Supporters of Senate Bill 0135 say the age needs to be raised to protect students who turn 18 before graduating from high school.

"When parents send their students to high school, they want to know that they're safe from somebody abusing them," the bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Rick Jones, was quoted as saying by mlive.com.

The bill applies only to high school students, not those in college.

The Senate on Thursday passed the bill by a 32-4 vote, sending it to the House.

"It is not unusual for high school seniors to be 18 or even 19 years old, and sexual relationships between them and their teachers or other school officials or employees continue to be inappropriate," states a legislative summary of arguments for the bill.

"By raising the maximum age in the prohibition against these types of relationships, the bill would hold those entrusted with the education and care of students to a higher standard."

A similar bill passed the Michigan Senate last year but stalled in the House. The Senate Judiciary Committee last year heard testimony from individuals in Ionia and Saginaw counties, where teachers were intimately involved with high school students but could not be held criminally liable because the students were 18 or 19. 

A similar law in Arkansas was struck down last year by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which held that people 18 or older have a constitutional right to engage in a consensual sexual relationship. The high court ruled in favor of 38-year-old David Paschal, a high school teacher who admitted having a five-month consensual sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student.

Several states have laws banning sexual consent between teachers and students.

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