Committee finishes work on bill extending penalties for sexual contact with a student

Published: Friday, Feb. 21 2014 3:50 p.m. MST

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Any adult school employee or volunteer would face criminal action for engaging in sexual contact with a student under the terms of a bill advanced Friday by the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill was held in committee Wednesday for further debate, then substituted and amended Friday in attempt to further clarify language. Current law specifies teachers as being in a "position of special trust," which lawmakers and educators say has led to a legal loophole excluding school personnel who are not directly involved in the classroom education of a student victim.

HB213, sponsored by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, would extend the definition of a person in a "position of special trust" to include teachers, as well as adult volunteers and other school faculty.

"I really belive the position of trust will be made even more clear," Christensen said.

Speaking in support of the bill, Daniel Harper, general counsel for Canyons School District, said that when he was in high school he remembers hearing rumors about students involved in relationships with school personnel. Unfortunately, Harper said, he has seen those rumors verified in his position as school legal counsel.

"These situations happen all too often in our schools," he said. "We believe there needs to be additional deterrents to attempt to curb this problem to the extent we can."

The bill was approved in a unanimous vote of the committee. It will now go before the House for further consideration.

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