If the students started paying union dues, they may be listened to.
Yesterday at a hearing for a bill (HB 5817) that would make sex between school employees and students a crime—even after they’ve turned 16, the legal age of consent in Rhode Island—both teachers’ unions made their objections known. NEA RI didn’t have anyone testify but Pat Crowley did sign in to the hearing and note his opposition to the bill. I suspect the NEA also submitted written testimony. James Parisi of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) did testify—in fact, we sat beside one another, each offering our very different opinions on the bill.
As it currently stands, Rhode Island is one of a few states where it is perfectly legal for teachers and other school employees to have sexual relations with their students once they turn 16. It’s literally a dirty little secret—almost no one seems to be aware of this loophole in the law and yet it leaves high school students without any protection from those who would sexually abuse them after their 16th birthday. We are also a state who, after a year long investigation by USA Today, received a grade of D for how well we track and share information about teachers who are also alleged abusers.