ANNAPOLIS -- A Maryland legislative committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would close a loophole that allows some school employees to have sex with some students without being charged with a crime.
It's a crime for full-time permanent teachers and school employees to have sex with students on or off school property. However, part-time and contractual employees -- including substitute teachers, coaches, bus drivers, janitors and cafeteria workers -- are not subject to the same law. It is not illegal for them to have sex with a student that is older than 16 -- Maryland's age of consent -- as long as it's not on school property.
The legislation stems partly from a case last year in which Montgomery County teacher and part-time track coach Scott Spear allegedly had sex with a 16-year-old girl he was coaching.
He was arrested in February over the allegations he twice had sex with the girl, who he had taught at Julius West Middle School and later coached at Richard Montgomery High School.
Because Spear as a coach fell outside the "full-time permanent" employee definition, prosecutors had to drop the case.
Spear asked for his job back after the charges were dropped, but he later resigned.
The pair of bills being considered by the House Judiciary Committee tries to eliminate that loophole.
One would remove the legal requirement that restricts prosecutors to prosecuting only full-time permanent employees, adding coaches to the list of school personnel who can be tried for having sex with students.
The other more broadly prohibits all school employees and contractors from having sex with students.
The bills' sponsors admitted their legislation isn't perfect. Del. Sam Arora, D-Montgomery, said the proposals would not apply to volunteer coaches or other personnel who are not paid for their services.
Arora said he would be willing to consider an amendment to include nonsalaried volunteers working for the school.
All witnesses testifying on the measures said they were supportive, but some said the bills should go further and be tougher. The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in prison.