An adult sexual misconduct bill is being reintroduced, with minor tweaks, to the Senate Judiciary Committee after a failed attempt last year. Aiken Senator Greg Ryberg proposed the new version and State Superintendent Jim Rex and his “task force” are on his side.
Currently under South Carolina law, any student 16 years or older is under legal consent. This means if a teacher were to have sex with one of these “of age” students, they would not be jailed, but would lose their jobs. This could all change if the House and Senate both pass the new bill up for discussion. Deputy Superintendent of Education Mark Bounds explains the specifics of the bill.
“Basically says that any student, regardless of age, in a K-12 environment cannot have sexual relations with any adult in that school system without it being a crime,” says Bounds.
If the bill is passed, the penalties would increase up to ten years in prison for a school employee. Bounds says one bad egg could make the whole batch look bad.
“We have 50,000 teachers in South Carolina and the vast majority are just doing unbelievable things for students and just great role models, but every time one teacher gets themselves in trouble for inappropriate behavior, it really tanks the whole teaching force,” says Bounds.
Bounds says although the bill failed last year, due to time and priority constraints, he expects the bill to go through more smoothly this year because they have had the opportunity and time to talk to legislators about the nature of the problem.