Arkansas Supreme Court Okays Sex between Teachers and 18-Year-Old Students
Thursday, April 05, 2012
David Paschal (photo: Washington County Sheriff's Office)
The state of Arkansas cannot criminalize sex between consenting adults, even if one is a teacher and another an 18-year-old student, ruled the state’s Supreme Court last week.
The case evolved from the conviction of David Paschal, 38, a history and psychology teacher at Elkins High School east of Fayetteville, who was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for having sex with a female student over a five-month period.
“Regardless of how we feel about Paschal’s conduct, which could correctly be referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts,” wrote Chief Justice Jim Hannah for the majority opinion.
In a 4-3 decision, the court said adult students (18 and older) have a constitutional right to consensual sex. It also ruled that state law infringed on Paschal’s “fundamental right to privacy” and criminalized sexual conduct between adults.
Justice Robert Brown dissented in no uncertain terms, noting that in high school “the teacher is without question the authority figure….the majority skews and minimizes the role of a teacher and views a sexual affair between a high school student and teacher as merely one between consenting adults….Any teacher knows that he or she occupies a position of trust or authority in the school...For the majority to say that such authority vanishes when a student turns eighteen ignores the realities of the student-teacher relationship.”
As for Paschal, he is unlikely to be leaving prison soon since he pleaded guilty to a separate charge of endangering the welfare of a minor after he served alcohol to some of his students at his home and then let them drive. For this transgression he was sentenced to six years in prison.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
Teacher-Student Sex Is Now Legal in Arkansas (by David Lee, Courthouse News Service)
Arkansas Supreme Court Overturns State Teacher-Student Sex Law (by Jessica Johnson, KTHV)
David Waldon Paschal v. State of Arkansas (Supreme Court of Arkansas) (pdf)
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