Community Meeting with Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Batts
I want to thank the over 500 people who came to the meeting last Wednesday night. Thank you to Breath of God Lutheran Church for hosting the community Wednesday night, and to the Mayor, Police Commissioner and other City leaders for coming and engaging Southeast residents.
I want to thank everyone for your patience Wednesday night with the capacity and technological problems we faced. If you were not able to get in to the meeting, please know that my staff and I are working diligently to find a location large enough and suitable to house the meeting with the State's Attorney, Gregg Bernstein on Wednesday, March 5th.
While this week has brought a tremendous amount of snow and rain, the work of the people of Maryland has continued in Annapolis. Despite the weather, the majority of legislators were present in Annapolis yesterday and today. Regardless of the weather, please know that we are hard at work in Annapolis, addressing issues and working diligently to find ways to help our communities and Baltimore move forward.
Person in Authority Bill (HB 781)
This week, I presented my bill, Person in Authority (HB 781), before the House Judiciary Committee, with the support of many others who appeared to testify before the committee. I believe, just as I did last year, that this legislation is of great importance and is needed to protect the children and families of Maryland.
Protecting children from those in our society who would prey on their innocence has long been at the heart of my legislative efforts. I have worked extensively with policy experts, including those at Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), to craft legislation that will protect children from predators who use their positions to exploit children and teens in their care.
Current law addresses sexual exploitation of children in two ways: through laws prohibiting people from having sex with children under the age of 16 (or under 14 for some types of contact) and by laws on “sexual abuse of a minor”. Sexual abuse of a minor is a term of art, and prosecution requires that the perpetrator be a family member, household member, or person with care, custody, or supervision of a child. Age-based laws stop at age 16. Full-time, permanent teachers are also prohibited from having sex with their students – but they have to be full-time permanent employees of a pre-school, elementary school, or secondary school.
Together these current laws address some cases involving sexual exploitation of children, but they completely fail to protect many 16 and 17 year olds. Current law, for example, would prohibit a coach from having sex with their student during a sporting event involving the teen because the teen would be under the coach’s supervision. But current law would not prohibit the same sexual activity during “off” hours when the child was not in the coach’s care. Adults with authority over 16 and 17 year olds have the authority and influence over the child all of the time.
Imagine the 16 year old Olympic hopeful, striving to make a spot on the US team: that teenager’s coach holds the dreams of the child in his or her hands. Our laws should protect the adolescent under the coach’s authority. We should not permit the coach to have sex with the child.
Imagine the coach who works part-time at a middle school and part-time at a high school. He identifies and grooms girls as middle school students but waits until they turn 16 before having sex with them. I’m not making this up – this case happened, and the State’s Attorney’s Office couldn’t prosecute the case because the teen was over 16, the coach was part-time, and the child was not in his care when he had sex with her.
We need to stop allowing this type of sexual exploitation of teens.
This was a contentious issue last session. Some accused me of trying to legislate against true love. The bill I have introduced this session will not please everyone or address every situation. But it will make real progress and protect many more teens than we protect now. We need to recognize that adults in authority are in authority 24/7 and protect the 16 and 17 year old kids they supervise.
The City Paper wrote about the legislation I introduced and you can read the article here: http://citypaper.com/news/creep-crusaders-1.1632778