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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Arkansas high court legalizes teacher sex with students


In Arkansas, teachers can now have sex with students: As long as the students have reached the age of consent.

The Arkansas Supreme Court Thursday stuck down the state’s law banning teachers from screwing students under age 21 — overturning a sexual assault conviction against a high school teacher who engaged in a five-month affair with an 18-year-old student at the school.

David Paschal was a teacher in the Elkins School District when he began a sexual relationship in 2009 with a senior who had been a student of his in the eighth and 10th grades as well as a babysitter for his children.

A jury in 2001 convicted Paschal of four counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of attempting or bribing a juror at a previous trial. The judge gave the teacher a 30-year prison sentence.

In overturning the conviction on the sexual assault charges, Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote in a majority opinion that the primary issue was “Paschal’s fundamental right to engage in private, consensual, noncommercial acts of sexual intimacy with an adult.  We hold that it does.”

Added Hannah: “Regardless of how we feel about Paschal’s conduct, which could be correctly be referred to reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts.”

Dissenting Justice Robert Brown disagreed:

For the majority to say that such authority vanishes when a student 18 ignores the realities of the student-teacher relationship. I cannot agree that a teacher has a right protected by our constitution to engage in sexual contact with a student.

The prosecution in the case may ask for a rehearing.

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5 thoughts on “Arkansas high court legalizes teacher sex with students”

  1. This was a young woman two years above the Arkansas age of consent, who was a student at the High School where he taught. But she hadn’t been a student of his for two years, and there is nothing to suggest he could influence her grades or made some sort of threat from a position of power.

    This is a man having an affair with his adult babysitter, who was the same age as most college freshman. Why on Earth would anybody think he should get 30 years in prison? Men have affairs with cute 18 year olds all the time.

    Is it fair to single out teachers as an occupation that is not allowed to be sexual with other consenting adults? Or do we want to infantilize young people even more than we already do, and “protect them” against their will into their 20s?

    I don’t think we really need to do that with people over the age of consent. The workplace sexual harassment, extortion, blackmail, and fraud laws can handle any truely abusive situation for young adults being victimized because of a student-teacher relationship.

  2. What then might be the ramifications when the student turns the power equation on its head, getting the academic equivalent of a casting couch okey dokey, because of engaging in sex with the teacher whose grade will determine a chunk of the student’s future? Could power imbalance become a situation where blackmail becomes blackboard-mail. It appears the court went a wee bit reactionary in order to prevent injustice in the shadow of an appallingly badly reasoned law. It could all backfire in practice.

    Sure, 30 years in the clink is too long for a consensual affair, but tossing out a bad law so as to distance a court from reprehensible sentencing requirements is more akin to baby-with-bathwater tossing than well reasoned jurisprudence. These are not the sorts of decisions that courts are good at, not that legislatures are really perfectly suited to the task. It’s just that appellate opinions tend to be too hidebound to a particular fact pattern that is ill suited to generalized effect over the populace at large.

    Perhaps this is a lesson in why high minimum sentences are a bad idea for so many offenses. Eventually reason should prevail and the ridiculous penalties will go the way of the Model T. The question with crimes and sentencing is how long does eventually take. So far, we continue with a choice between bad laws with worse sentencing or reactionary courts that see the wrong, and rock the boat all the way to the opposite gunwale, just to prevent that last straw case from robbing jurists of humanity if they were forced to uphold a bad law lacking all common sense.

  3. Seems rightly decided to me. Reprehensible is not necessarily criminal. And 30 years for that? Far too much. Losing his job or teaching certification is more appropriate.

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