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Bill sets penalty for school staff sex with student

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Public school employees who engage in a sexual relationship with a student could face criminal char-ges and dismissal under a bill that passed a House committee Wednesday.

The bill by Rep. Henry White, D-Athens, passed the House judiciary committee after an amendment that reduced the severity of the bill's criminal charges.

It now goes to the full House.

A former Limestone County Schools superintendent, White said the current Limestone superintendent and school board asked him to introduce the bill.

He said the bill stems from an incident in Limestone County a few years ago involving a teacher's aide and one or more 17-year-old students. He said the aide resigned, so the case did not proceed.

The bill exempts employees who are married to students.

In its original form, the bill provided that public school employees convicted of having a sexual relationship with a student could face up to 20 years in prison as a Class B felon. The amended version that passed the committee reduced the criminal charge to a Class C felony with up to 10 years in prison.

Rep. Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville, added the amendment.

"For somebody whose emotions perhaps just ran wild, this seems tough," he said of the original version.

Rep. Christopher England, D-Tuscaloosa, questioned the bill's constitutionality and cast the only no vote.

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