David Paschal was a 38 year-old history teacher at Elkins High School in Arkansas when he began sleeping with one of his 18 year-old students. Pretty skeevy, yes — but no longer illegal, since the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned its law banning sexual contact between teachers and students…as long as the students are 18.
The law was there to protect students from teachers who might use their age and authority to start inappropriate relationships. But the Court found the law unconstitutional for criminalizing sexual contact between consenting adults. Paschal, the history teacher, is currently serving a 30-year sentence for his consensual relationship. “I think that this case does not necessarily say a teacher can do that and keep their job,” said Paschal’s lawyer, Casey Copeland. “I think the loss of job and loss of teacher’s license might be appropriate for that, but it’s not appropriate to put someone in jail for 30 years.”
While Arkansas may be jettisoning its law against teacher-student sex, Maryland is considering strengthening its own comparable rule. Maryland is one of 23 states nationwide with laws on the books banning teacher-student sex, but last month a 47 year-old middle school teacher and high school coach who had sex with a 16 year-old student had charges against him dropped because of a loophole in the law. Scott Spear, a coach at Richard Montgomery High School in Montgomery County, was charged with a fourth-degree sex offense, until his lawyers pointed out that he’s only a part-time employee of the high school. Under Maryland state law, only full-time employees can be charged with having inappropriate sexual relationships with students.
For more on this topic see our story, “Undercurrent: A Sex Scandal’s Sudden Impact” by Holly Morse Ellington