March 29, 2019 Atlanta - Rep. Ed Setzler (left) and Rep. Kevin Cooke confer during the 38th day of legislation in the House Chambers at the Georgia State Capitol on Friday, March 29, 2019. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia Legislature broadens ban on sex in high school

The Georgia General Assembly broadened a prohibition on sex between teachers and high school students Tuesday night, in the waning hours of the 2019 legislative session. 

Current law, which prosecutors find difficult to enforce, prohibits sexual relations only when the teacher has "supervisory or disciplinary" authority over the student. 

"You've had a lot of cases where you could not prove those two conditions," said Pete Skandalakis, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. His group backed the legislation, and he testified at hearings for it this year and last year, when a similar bill failed to pass. 

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Photos: Sine Die at the Georgia legislature

Technically, the legislation by Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, did not pass this year, either. But the wording in his House Bill 43 was attached to successful legislation from the other chamber, Senate Bill 9, by Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta. 

Jones' bill previously focused on prohibiting sexual extortion, such as threatening to distribute photos or videos of sex. But he welcomed the additional wording from Setzler's legislation. 

The Setzler language tries to address the power differential between teachers and students who may technically be old enough to consent to sex but are to be considered incapable of consent under the circumstances. 

The expanded prohibition covers not only teachers, but also any "employee or agent" at the school attended by the student. It prohibits "sexually explicit conduct" and sets tiers of punishment based on factors such as the difference in age between the parties.

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