A new Department of Education (DOE) study found that school workers in Alabama were involved in sex crimes cases with students at a rate higher than in any other state in the country last year, AL.com reported.
Terry Abbot, former DOE chief of staff, and his Houston-based PR firm examined 781 cases of sexual abuse involving teachers and students and found that there were 25 cases in Alabama in 2014.
Those numbers give Alabama the highest rate per capita of educator-student sexual abuse incidents in the country.
Southern states made up four of the top five worst places for these types of sexual abuse cases, with Kentucky, Louisiana, Vermont, and Mississippi coming in behind Alabama. In terms of the overall-highest total number of teacher-student sexual contact cases, Texas topped the list with 116.
Abbott noted that the study isn’t perfect, though. There currently is no federal law that dictates what is and isn’t sexual abuse between students and teachers, so what was illegal in Alabama might have been perfectly legal in other states.
“Alabama Act 2010-497 makes it illegal for any school employee to have a sexual relationship with a student younger than 19,” AL reported. “In Wyoming, as long as the student is 16 or older and consents to the relationship, it’s not a crime. In Michigan, all such relationships are illegal, regardless of the student’s age.”
“Teachers have authority over children every day, so it’s very important to protect that relationship, and any teacher who abuses that authority takes advantage of a child in the classroom, that should be a serious crime,” Abbott said. “[W]e send our children to school every day to be educated. We don’t send them there to be sexually assaulted. An educator’s first and most important priority ought to be the safety of every child in that building.”
Regardless of age, teachers having any type of sexual contact with their students, even if it isn’t technically illegal, is disgusting. It’s an abuse of power, a violation of trust, and a manipulation of a relationship that is supposed to result in long-term benefits for the students.