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Court upholds law against sex between teacher, adult student

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, at 6:58 p.m.

The Kansas Court of Appeals has upheld a state law that prohibits sexual contact between a teacher and adult student.

The case involved a former Wichita Northwest High School choir teacher who challenged his conviction for having consensual sex with an 18-year-old student.

The teacher, Charles Edwards, argued in part that he should be held to the same standards as professors on college campuses, where teachers are not prohibited by law from having sex with students. The Appeals Court disagreed in its ruling last week.

“While it is true that both situations involve learning environments, the circumstances are hardly comparable,” the court said in its ruling. “High school attendance is mandatory … while attendance at college is voluntary. Most of the children attending K-12 schools are minors.”

Edwards was a 30-year-old choir teacher at Northwest when he was charged with having sex with the Northwest High student in his home in March 2010. Edwards was found guilty of unlawful sexual relations with a student and placed on probation. State law makes it a low-level felony for a teacher or person in position of authority to have sexual contact with a student enrolled at the school where he or she works.

Edwards contended in his appeal that the law infringed on his right to engage in sexual conduct with a consenting adult in the privacy of his home. The appeals court sided with prosecutors, who argued that there are legitimate reasons to make sexual contact between teachers and students a crime.

“Teachers are in a unique position to groom or coerce students into exploitive or abusive conduct,” the ruling said. “The state must provide a safe school environment for students, which includes preventing the sexual exploitation of students.

“A sexually charged learning environment would confuse, disturb, and distract students, thus undermining the quality of education in Kansas. … Students very well may not have the necessary level of maturity to remove themselves from a sexually charged situation.”

The ruling noted that the law places no restrictions on teachers having consensual sex with adults who are not students.

Reach Hurst Laviana at (316) 268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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