GUEST BLOG POST by Elinor Swanson
Why We Should Support Criminalizing Junior High and High School Teacher-Student Sexual Relationships
Freedom has a different meaning when it comes to children and other vulnerable populations who are incapable of making decisions for themselves. Unlike the laissez faire, "live and let live" relationships between American adults, caregivers have a fundamental duty to safely shepherd children through life, helping them safely develop into self-sufficient adults.
During that process, parents trust a variety of in loco parentis guardians, including babysitters, family members, and teachers. A caregiver's primary responsibility is to prevent any harm from befalling the child in their care. A caregiver may even be responsible for the child's conduct, for example if the child harms someone due to the caregiver's negligence. Caregivers may not, of course, expose the children in their care to unreasonable risk of harm, or threaten their well-being in any way.
When parents send their children to school, they expect teachers to ensure their child's safety and to professionally evaluate their child's academic progress - not to evaluate their child's sexual attractiveness or ability to consent to sex. When trusted caregivers venture outside the caregiving role and into a sexual one, that is by nature sexually predatory and sexually violent. Beyond the mismatch of education, age, power, and knowledge, such child-caregiver relationships cause unique harms to the child because of their incestuous or pseudo-incestuous nature. Coercion and harm are inherent in these types of relationships because they corrupt the nonsexual, protective nature of the guardianship role, and violate the child's trust. When it comes to junior high and high school teacher-student relationships, the teacher violates the parents' trust, as well.
Incestuous and pseudo-incestuous relationships between children and their caregivers have predictable consequences: children often feel guilty and ashamed, face academic decline, and have difficulty forming healthy relationships in the future. Neither junior high nor high school students, nor their parents, consent to those risks, if they even know of them. Teachers know better; they are trained to know that students are highly likely to be harmed by such a breach. It is therefore unsurprising that teachers who cross this line tend to follow a predatory pattern: they are highly likely to be repeat offenders, preying on multiple children in their care, often over a timespan of many years.
Currently, junior high and high school teachers in Montana can have intercourse with their students so long as their students are 16 years old, and can engage in everything-but-intercourse with students 14 years old and over, without facing criminal consequences. For all of the reasons discussed above, however, it is well within the role of a small, limited government to criminalize such sexually predatory, sexually violent child-caregiver relationships.
Elinor Swanson is a Billings attorney and was the 2018 Libertarian candidate for Montana’s at-large U.S. House seat.
Montanans for Limited Government
Kathy Kay, Treasurer
PO Box 1154, Lolo, MT 59847