Modesto Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen’s proposed bill to deter inappropriate student-teacher relationships and strip pensions from offending school staffers was killed Tuesday by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
The bill, AB 1861, would have made it a felony for a teacher or any school staff member to have a romantic relationship with a student at the same school, regardless of the student’s age.
The measure also proposed stripping teachers of their pensions and retirement benefits if convicted of a felony.
The bill came about after a 41-year-old Modesto area high school teacher left his wife and family and moved in with an 18-year-old student.
“Today’s vote is a win for predators and union bosses, and a loss for parents and students,” Olsen said in a statement Tuesday. “We need to do everything we can to protect our children, and to ensure schools are a safe and secure learning environment. AB 1861 would have been a strong deterrent for those who would take advantage of their position of authority, and engage in a romantic relationship with a student.”
Olsen’s statement said recent school sex cases, like that at Enochs High School in Modesto and at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, highlighted the growing problem of teachers, administrators, or other school employees engaging in sexual acts, relations or inappropriate communications with their students.
Many other states have laws that make it a felony for a teacher to have an inappropriate relationship with a student even if the student is 18 years old, according to a statement from Olsen’s office.
In California, a teacher can only be charged with a felony for engaging in a relationship with a student who is younger than 18.
“This bill would have closed a loophole in California law that allows predators to woo a student while they are a minor, but wait until the student’s 18th birthday to turn the relationship into a sexual one,” Olsen’s statement said. “That loophole puts our kids at risk and needs to be closed.”
Under the existing laws, teachers convicted of a felony are still able to collect their public pension and benefits.
Olsen plans to continue working to build support for the measure and will introduce the bill again next year, she said.