Sunday, February 23, 2014

Delegate Kathleen Dumais Responds to "imperfect" policy that would permit young teachers to have sexual contact with teens

Delegate Dumais sent the Parents' Coalition the following statement in response to the the blog posting of the February 21, 2014, letter from the Board of Education to Senator Jamie Raskin.
To Whom It May Concern:
The baseless, personal and unfair attacks on Senator Raskin, Senator King, Senator Forehand and others who for years have been the strongest champions of efforts to end sexual violence in the Maryland legislature really must stop.   It would be much more productive if someone is “uncomfortable” with certain language in a bill or has a question about why a bill is written a certain way, would simply pick up the phone and ask.  This area of the law is complicated and cannot be read in a vacuum.  If the “loophole” was easy to fix – it would have been done a long time ago.
Many of us have been working for over a decade with strong, dedicated advocates to close the loopholes in Maryland's law on sexual exploitation of teenagers.  We have not been able to pass a bill because some of our colleagues in the General Assembly are concerned about criminalizing sexual conduct when a “person in authority” and a 16- or 17-year old are close in age.
The legislation introduced this year responded to this legislative roadblock by including compromise language:  it will apply the prohibition only when there is a 7 year age gap when the sexual interaction occurs during “off-hours” (no age gap would be required when the teen is under the direct care or supervision of the adult).
This compromise brings us closer to passing a bill than we have been for many years.  Keep in mind that nothing in this bill that is designed to define the power of the relationship that a “person in authority” has over a minor precludes prosecution for sexual offenses such as statutory rape, sexual abuse of a minor, or any other sexual offense under other provisions of the criminal code. 
For what it’s worth, the House Judiciary Committee has been working on  HB781 (the cross-file of SB460), as well as another bill introduced on this issue.  I believe that my committee may pass HB781 without the age gap language but, with a more comprehensive list of individuals covered as “persons in authority.”   We are still reviewing the proposed amendments but, by putting the best of several bills together, I believe we have a strong bill that will close several loopholes and I urge your support of the amended HB781.
We always welcome constructive criticism and want to hear from the community about their concerns.  But, I have been very disturbed by the animosity couched in a personal manner at Senators Raskin, King, Forehand and others – particularly when it is clear that the complaints about the legislation are being leveled without the facts and without a complete understanding of the complexity of the law.   When it comes to legislation and politics, disagreement and different perspectives are expected and accepted.  Personal attacks are not and should not be.
The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), previously published the description of SB460/HB781 below, which does describe the loopholes we are trying to close and how, as introduced, these two bills would move the ball forward.  As noted above, amendments have been proposed to do better – but, I assure you, the amendments have nothing to do with the baseless, unfair, personal attacks.  Rather, the amendments were proposed and worked through by the exact same legislators dedicated to ending sexual violence that have been so unfairly excoriated in this blog and the media.
Here’s how MCASA described the bills as introduced:
“Maryland’s law fails to prohibit sexual conduct between teenagers and a wide range of people with authority over children.  Adults with authority over teenagers and other children should not use their position to sexually exploit the minors they work with.  The current law fails to protect teens by imposing complicated and nonsensical distinctions between educators and non-educators, full-time and part-time, permanent and provisional, under supervision and not.  Current law leaves out persons in authority who are volunteers and those who work outside of pre-school, elementary schools, and secondary schools. 
MCASA has worked for over a decade to pass comprehensive legislation to address the gaps in the law and prevent sexual exploitation of teens.  Year after year, we have seen legislation fail because of the debate between those who are concerned about criminalizing sexual relationships between people who are close in age, and those who are unyielding in their view that all adults who are sexually involved with the 16 or 17 year olds they have authority over are criminals.
This is an important debate and one that should continue.  However, MCASA also believes that we can and should pass legislation addressing areas of agreement and are grateful to the sponsors of SB460 and HB781 for proposing compromise legislation that will make huge strides towards closing the loopholes in our law.  SB460 and HB781 will:
  • retain the current 25 year penalty for all adults who sexually exploit teens during the time the teen is directly in their care and custody or supervision
  • increase potential penalties from a sentence of one year to five years for persons in authority who have sexual interactions with 16- and 17-year olds during “off-hours”
  • expand the prohibition on sexual relations between persons in authority and teens to include volunteers
  • expand the prohibition on sexual relations between persons in authority and teens to include sports and recreation programs
  • close current loopholes permitting part-time school teachers and coaches to have sexual relations with students during “off-hours”
Legislation is an incremental process.  SB460 and HB781 would make huge progress but are being threatened by those who want a perfect bill.  MCASA appreciates their concerns and agree that the 7 year age gap for “off-hours” is an imperfect policy.  But it is a real step forward and efforts to create a perfect bill have left teens without any protection for years and years.  It’s time to move ahead and enact legislation to increase protections for teens.”
Again, as noted above, I believe that the possibility of the House and the Senate passing a strong bill this year with the components identified by MCASA – and without the “age gap” is very high.  We will need and want your support of that effort.  Let’s start working together and stop destructive personal attacks.  

Kathleen M. Dumais
Delegate, District 15 – Montgomery County
Vice Chair, House Judiciary Committee
House Office Building
6 Bladen Street, Room 101
Annapolis, MD  21401



  1. Del. Dumais, You and others pushing this bill which legalizes sex between teachers, coaches, employees and their teenage students state that one of the main reasons it needs to become law is because the previous loophole, allowing sex between part-time teachers, coaches, and employees and their students took years to close. What makes you and your colleagues think this new loophole can be closed any sooner? Please respond.

  2. Also, we keep hearing, from you, and others, including MCPS staffer Laura Steinberg, how "complicated" this is. Please explain what we are not understanding when we read this 4-page bill. Ms. Steinberg's explanation was, "these senators believe that this [the sexual relationship between teachers, coaches, employees and their teenage students] needs to be respected." This doesn't seem to complicated for we citizens to understand. Elected members of the Maryland legislature respect sexual relationships between teenagers and their teachers or coaches and want to make sure the sex is legal. What are we missing?

  3. Dumais's professional experience includes working as an Attorney/Principal with Paley, Rothman, Goldstein, Rosenberg & Cooper, Attorney for Quinn, McAuliffe and Dumais, was Assistant to Dean of the University of Maryland University College, and a teacher/administrative assistant in Montgomery County Public Schools.

  4. "We have not been able to pass a bill because some of our colleagues in the General Assembly are concerned about criminalizing sexual conduct when a “person in authority” and a 16- or 17-year old are close in age." Which colleagues?

  5. Why go for imperfect now? We've had imperfect for a number of years, time to make it right.

  6. Delegate Dumais is the Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee that is reviewing the House version of the Raskin bill.

    Chair: Delegate Joseph F. Vallario, Jr.
    Vice Chair: Delegate Kathleen M. Dumais

  7. We asked Delegate Dumais for the facts surrounding the late evening vote by the House Committee. At the time of this posting we have not had a response.

    Feb 28 (2 days ago)

    Dear Delegate Dumais,

    We are hearing a rumor that at a late evening voting session the House Judiciary Committee discussed and voted on HB781. We have searched the Maryland General Assembly website and cannot find any evidence of this meeting or, of a possible vote on HB781. We would like the facts.

    Can you please assist us in understand where this bill stands? Was a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee held late on February 27th? Was HB781 discussed and voted on? If so, please forward a copy of the bill as passed by the House Judiciary Committee.

    Thank you so much for your prompt reply as time is of the essence with regard to the legislative process.

    Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland

  8. It would be extremely useful if a copy of the proposed composite bill, with the above boldface annotations, be available for public view prior to voting to serve as a point of reference. In the past, clauses have been either added or deleted in the final version of the bill.

    1. Agreed.

      But Maryland doesn't get a F for legislative accountability for nothing.

    2. "Conflicts of interest run rampant in state legislatures" In other words, they have joined the bandwagon.


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