Maryland’s law fails to prohibit sexual conduct between teenagers and a wide range of people with authority over children. Adults with authority over teenagers and other children should not use their position to sexually exploit the minors they work with. The current law fails to protect teens by imposing complicated and nonsensical distinctions between educators and non-educators, full-time and part-time, permanent and provisional, under supervision and not. Current law leaves out persons in authority who are volunteers and those who work outside of pre-school, elementary schools, and secondary schools. Articles like this one in the Washington Post and other media highlight this loophole.
MCASA has worked for over a decade to pass comprehensive legislation to address the gaps in the law and prevent sexual exploitation of teens. Year after year, we have seen legislation fail because of the debate between those who are concerned about criminalizing sexual relationships between people who are close in age, and those who are unyielding in their view that all adults who are sexually involved with the 16 or 17 year olds they have authority over are criminals.
This is an important debate and one that should continue. However, MCASA also believes that we can and should pass legislation addressing areas of agreement and are grateful to the sponsors of SB460 and HB781 for proposing compromise legislation that will make huge strides towards closing the loopholes in our law. SB460 and HB781 will:
retain the current 25 year penalty for all adults who sexually exploit teens during the time the teen is directly in their care and custody or supervision
increase potential penalties from a sentence of one year to five years for persons in authority who have sexual interactions with 16- and 17-year olds during “off-hours”
expand the prohibition on sexual relations between persons in authority and teens to include volunteers
expand the prohibition on sexual relations between persons in authority and teens to include sports and recreation programs
close current loopholes permitting part-time school teachers and coaches to have sexual relations with students during “off-hours”
Senator Jamie Raskin, Delegate Luke Clippinger, Senator Jennie Forehand, Senator Nancy King and the other co-sponsors deserve our support for introducing legislation to move the law forward. Their bill includes a compromise: it will apply the prohibition only when there is a 7 year age gap when the sexual interaction occurred during “off-hours” (no age gap would be required when the teen is under the direct care or supervision of the adult). This compromise is bringing us closer to passing a bill than we have been for many years. Even those who are concerned about cases involving young adults and teens acknowledge that if there is larger age gap, the criminal law should step in.
Legislation is an incremental process. SB460 and HB781 would make huge progress but are being threatened by those who want a perfect bill. MCASA appreciates their concerns and agree that the 7 year age gap for “off-hours” is an imperfect policy. But it is a real step forward and efforts to create a perfect bill have left teens without any protection for years and years. It’s time to move ahead and enact legislation to increase protections for teens.
Please call your legislators and ask them to report favorably on SB460 and HB781.
Contact the senators and delegates from your district. If you work at a sexual assault program, please also call the senators from the districts you serve.
Your voices make a difference for survivors.
A list of Committee members is below.
Lisae C. Jordan, Esq.
Executive Director & Counsel
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee: Phone Numbers & Emails
Lisa A. Gladden, Vice-Chair
Norman R. Stone, Jr.
Robert A. Zirkin
Cecil, Caroline Kent, and Queen Anne’s Counties
Stephen Hershey, Jr.
Cecil & Harford Counties
Brian E. Frosh, Chair
Jennie M. Forehand
Jamin B. (Jamie) Raskin
Christopher B. Shank
House Judiciary Committee: Phone Numbers & Emails
Jill P. Carter
Luke H. Clippinger
Frank M. Conaway, Jr.
Sandy (Samuel) Rosenberg
John W. E. Cluster, Jr.
Cecil, Caroline, Kent, & Queen Anne’s Counties
Michael D. Smigiel, Sr.
Cecil & Harford Counties
Frederick & Washington Counties
Michael J. Hough
Susan K. McComas
Kathleen M. Dumais, Vice-Chair
Susan C. Lee
Luiz R. S. Simmons
Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher
Prince George’s and Calvert Counties
Joseph F. Vallario, Jr., Chair
Prince George’s County
Darren M. Swain
Neil C. Parrott
Wicomico & Worcester Counties
Michael A. McDermott