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Bill looks to make illicit student-teacher relationships felony offenses

POSTED March 27, 2012 11:11 p.m.

A local assemblywoman has introduced new legislation to make inappropriate student-teacher relationships a felony – with the help of a Modesto mother whose high school-age daughter is now living with her 41-year-old former teacher.

Jordan Powers, an Enoch High School senior, has been dating former business teacher James Hooker since shortly after turning 18, in January. Hooker has since quit his teaching job and left his wife and children to move into an apartment with Powers.

That relationship is legal, under state law, as teachers may only be charged with felonies for sexual acts, relations, or inappropriate communications with students under age 18.

“As parents, we put our trust in our schools, and our teachers, to keep our children safe and provide them with a good education,” said Tammie Powers, Jordan Powers’ mother. “I hope this law will be a deterrent to any teacher who would abuse their authority, morally and ethically, so that no one else’s child is taken advantage of the way mine was.”

The new law, introduced by State Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R – Modesto), would make any illicit student-teacher relationship – in elementary, middle, and secondary schools – prosecutable as a felony. Similar legislation already exists in 23 other states.

"It is an outrage that a high school teacher would engage in a romantic relationship with a student,” said Olsen. “We need to do everything we can to deter this behavior, and to ensure schools are a safe and secure learning environment for our children.”

Olsen’s bill, Assembly Bill 1861, would also prohibit teachers from collecting public pensions and benefits if convicted of work-related felonies. Currently, teachers may collect benefits even in those situations.

The bill is expected to be referred to a policy committee later this week.

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