The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a high school history teacher who had sex with an 18-year-old student, invalidating the state’s existing prohibition against teacher-student sex.
A guilty verdict could have landed David Paschal, the 38-year-old teacher, a 30-year prison sentence.
But because the student was over the age of consent, the relationship was not criminal, the court said in its 4-3 ruling.
“Regardless of how we feel about Paschal’s conduct, which could correctly 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, according to The Huffington Post.
In dissent, Justice Robert Brown warned that the majority opinion would cause chaos in schools.
“This will cause significant disruption in our high schools and have a deleterious impact on education in general and the teacher-student dynamic in particular,” wrote Brown.
Under an Arkansas statute, no elementary or high school teacher may engage in a sexual relationship with a student who is younger than 21. But the court disagreed, ruling that the statute had the effect of criminalizing sex between consenting adults and was unconstitutional.
It is unclear whether the state will appeal, introduce responsive legislation, or let the decision stand.
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