In the wake District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s startling revelation late last year that she’d fired teachers for having sex with students, Councilman Kwame Brown has proposed a bill that would make it a criminal offense for a public school teacher to become sexually involved with a student – regardless of the pupil’s age.
As District law currently stands, teachers – or any adults – who engage in sexual activity with students that have reached 16, the age of consent, and older cannot be prosecuted.
But Brown, who noted an incident where a teacher impregnated an 18-year-old special needs student, said any such interaction with students is wrong and he wants it outlawed in the District.
Rhee reportedly said later that when she attempted to have criminal charges pressed against that particular teacher, both police and prosecutors informed her that because the girl was of legal age, she could not proceed.
“If you are an employee of DCPS and you have sexual relations with a student and you’re found guilty after due process, you should be terminated,” Brown said in comments to reporters. “I haven’t met one teacher who I’ve spoken with who said it’s OK for a teacher or an employee to have a sexual relationship with a student.”
Southeast resident Wendy Crumm sided with Brown.
“Any teacher who has sex with a student should be fired immediately,” Crumm, 52, said. “Teachers are for protection; we trust them with our children. And having sex with them is not part of that trust.”
However, the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington said there are problems early on with Brown’s proposal.
Spokesman Johnny Barnes told the AFRO there had been some conflict with the proposal’s wording but be thinks the necessary adjustments had been made.
“We were concerned about some wording and other things,” Barnes said. “There had been no criminal penalties in it.” He further said, “The ACLU made its concerns known to the Council and the bill has since been modified. . . some of the wording seemed to have some ambiguities in it which made the definitions overly broad.”
Brown had attempted to present the bill as emergency legislation this week, but ended up deciding to wait until sometime next month to make a formal introduction.
Meanwhile, Agnes Dyson, one of the 300 teachers who lost their job last fall in Rhee’s Reduction in Force (RIF) initiative, said she remains ticked off over her termination. She was also miffed over Rhee’s magazine statements that suggested a wide swath of teachers that were terminated were let go due to sexual misconduct although only one case has been confirmed so far.
“For one thing, I wasn’t one of those teachers,” Dyson said, adding that nevertheless, the stigma of wrongdoing has been attached to her.
Dyson said when she goes looking for a job, she has to wonder if a prospective employer thinks she was among the teachers Rhee fired for hitting or having sex with students.
“Any teacher who has sex with students [or otherwise brings harms to them] should be fired and prosecuted to the highest extent of the law,” Dyson said. “But it’s unfair how Rhee handled the whole situation. She shouldn’t have had to wait for a RIF to announce teachers had been fired for having sex with students.”