A bill that targets teachers and other school personnel who engage in sex or sex acts with students continues to make its way through the House.
On Tuesday, House Bill 142, titled “Protect Our Students Act” received a favorable hearing from the House Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee.
If HB 142 becomes law, school personnel who engage in sex with students could be charged with a class G felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 47 months in prison.
Taking indecent liberties with a student is currently a Class I felony in North Carolina, which is punishable for up to 24 months in prison.
Teachers and other school personnel could also be charged for engaging in sexual activity with recent high school graduates up to six months after the former student finishes school.
“It addresses grooming where, unfortunately, someone that is out to do bad will purposefully engage in a student in the attempt to get them groomed to the point that when they exit the school, then a relationship could begin,” said State Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican and bill sponsor.
School leaders who fail to report misconduct to the State Board of Education could be charged with a class I felony. Educators also risk losing pensions for engaging in sexual misconduct with students.
Torbett noted that HB 142 originated in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction after State Superintendent Catherine Truitt found gaps in the educator license revocation process.
Truitt told lawmakers last month that there have been 124 cases of sexual misconduct since 2016 involving students that led to a license revocation, suspension or surrender.
Torbett said there are likely more incidents than the 20 or so reported each year because reports only include the misconduct of licensed education professionals.
“Therefore, if someone employed by schools such as bus driver, coach or teacher’s assistant who wouldn’t have a teaching license commits one of these offenses, they wouldn’t be reflected in these 20 a year number,” Torbett said.
HB 142 would require schools to show students in grades 6-12 videos that explain the warning signs of abuse or neglect. Students would also received instruction in how to confidentially report such incidents.
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