(TRENTON) – Expanding law to protect older students in cases of sexual assault, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to criminalize sexual contact between teachers and students who are under 20 years old was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
We see countless cases of inappropriate student-teacher relationships nowadays, perhaps due to the fact that technology and social media have bridged the personal space that once existed between students and teachers,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Regardless, even when a high school student reaches the age of 18, a teacher’s supervisory and disciplinary power makes any sexual relationship inherently coercive and inappropriate. This bill will make that explicitly clear.”
The number of instances between teenagers and teachers appears to be increasing,” said Chiaravalloti (D- Hudson). “Teachers, who are authority figures, need to understand that the power imbalance supersedes any ‘consent’ received by students and that such relations are inappropriate. We need to close this loophole to make that message clear.”
The bill (A-1909) makes a person guilty of sexual assault if he commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim who is 18 years old or older and less than 20 years old, if the victim is a student in a school where the actor is a teaching staff member, substitute teacher, school bus driver, other school employee, contracted service provider or volunteer and has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim.
Sexual assault is a crime of the second degree and is typically punishable by a term of imprisonment of five to 10 years, or a fine of up to $150,000, or both.
Under the bill, “teaching staff member” is defined under existing law as “a member of the professional staff of any district or regional board of education, or any board of education of a county vocational school, holding office, position or employment of such character that the qualifications, for such office, position or employment, require him to hold a valid and effective standard, provisional or emergency certificate, appropriate to his office, position or employment, issued by the State Board of Examiners and includes a school nurse and a school athletic trainer.”
The measure was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.
If enacted, New Jersey would join 10 other states – Alabama, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington – that have laws criminalizing sex between school employees and students over the age of 18.