Simply by reading local and national headlines, a person might be led to assume that teachers are more likely than adults in other professions-- to become sex offenders. However, media representation regarding teachers accused of sex crimes can be misleading, especially in light of the fact that Oklahoma law criminalizes a sexual relationship between students and teachers, even if the student is old enough to legally consent to sex.
How the Law Works
If a 36-year-old plumber, hairdresser, office manager, or stockbroker is involved in a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old high school senior, it is a private matter between consenting adults.
If the 36-year-old is a teacher in the same school district as the senior, it is a felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
This law is designed to protect students from those who may abuse their position of authority in an attempt to gain sexual advantage. Oklahoma is one of twenty-three states that currently criminalize sex between students and teachers. However, in light of a recent ruling in a neighboring state, one Oklahoma statutory rape defense lawyer is challenging the constitutionality of such a law as it pertains to his client.
Details of the Case
Former Western Heights High School basketball coach Tyrone Lamont Nash, 33, of Oklahoma City, was charged with rape after a 16-year-old student admitted to having a sexual relationship with the teacher.
Despite the facts that the girl was never a student in Nash's classes and that she admitted to initiating contact with him, Nash was charged with five counts of second degree rape and five counts of forcible oral sodomy.
Nash's defense attorney says that the law governing sexual relationships between students and teachers is so broad and vague that it is unconstitutional. He argues that the law should only pertain to teachers or school employees who have direct power, control, or influence over a student. By prohibiting all student-teacher relationships, he continues, the law infringes on the private rights of consenting adults.
The attorney points to a recent ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which held that a law criminalizing sex between a teacher and an adult student violates a fundamental right to privacy. The court ordered that the conviction of a 38-year-old teacher serving a 30 year sentence for having sex with an 18-year-old student be reversed and dismissed.
Those who challenge laws prohibiting relationships between students and teachers hold that they do not support such relationships; however, they say, criminalizing an action that would otherwise be legally permissible is a violation of one's rights. Criminalizing these actions is not "the least restrictive means" of prohibiting sex between teachers and students. An Oklahoma County District Court judge is expected to rule on the motion by the end of the month.