An Alabama judge has refused to dismiss a sexual assault case against a teacher until another state court decides whether the law used to charge the teacher is constitutional.
Lawrence County Circuit Judge Mark Craig denied a motion to dismiss on Thursday in the case against Taylor Brooks Boyles, 27, a Moulton Middle School teacher who allegedly had a sexual relationship with a student during the student’s senior year at Lawrence County High School, the Decatur Daily reported.
She was arrested in May and charged with being a school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19, court records said.
Craig stayed the case until a separate court made a decision in two other trials concerning a similar matter, the report said.
Boyles’ lawyer reportedly expressed disappointment with the decision, considering the circumstances.
“This is a peculiar situation because we have a statute designed to protect students,” Attorney Mark Dutton said. “As a father, I’m proud of that. But I believe when this code section was adopted, (the Legislature) failed to consider the conflict that was created versus the law in Alabama that a 16-year-old and above is able to consent to sexual contact if the consent is freely and voluntarily given… I don’t believe what (Boyles) is accused of doing may be right. But I believe what she is accused of doing is not criminal.”
The law in question was passed in 2010 and prohibits school employees from having sex with students under the age of 19, the Decatur Daily reported. But defense attorneys argued that this regulation ran against a state law that deems 16 to be the legal age of consent.
In the cases Craig referenced, two teachers were separately accused of having sexual relationships with students, all of whom were reportedly older than 16.
Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson deemed the 2010 law unconstitutional arguing that the students were legally old enough to consent to sex, the Decatur Daily reported.
“This Court acknowledges that a disparity of power may inherently exist in a teacher/student relationship, but it clearly does not exist between every school employee and every student regardless of where the student is enrolled,” he wrote. “By eliminating the requirement that the state show a position of authority, grooming, abuse, coercion, or lack of consent, the state criminalizes behaviors outside the state’s legitimate purpose.”
The ruling by Thompson is reportedly under appeal by the district attorney and state attorney general.
State Senator Arthur Orr requested a new draft of the legislation, modeled after other states’ constitutional versions of the law, in the event that the judge’s ruling is upheld, the Decatur Daily reported.
The goal remains to prevent inappropriate relations between teachers and students, Orr said.