Senate Bill 129 will protect minors who are sexually assaulted in the second or third degree by employees or volunteers in public or private schools, after passing the senate and is now introduced to the House.
It will also apply to minors who are in adult or juvenile correctional facilities.
“This will provide a safe and effective learning environment for our school children,” Senator Brain Boner said. “According to the US Department of Education, 10 percent of our kids will face some sort of sexual misconduct by a teacher or staff member in our K-12 system. This will deter such predatory behavior by our school employees.”
Originally, the Senate had introduced SB 65 “Sexual assault-position of authority.” Boner said SB 65 failed because it was too complicated.
“The original bill was too intricate and tried to anticipate specific situations instead of setting policy,” Boner said.
Within the bill, the position of authority included anyone who had a “significant influence over a person” such as a teacher, administrator or coach. Situations included if the victim was enrolled at a school where the person of authority is employed, if they were four or more years older and had actual contact with the victim.
Tara Muir, Public Policy Director for the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, gave an example of a situation.
“Senator Boner told the story of one of his 15-year-old constituents who had been groomed to be the “girlfriend” by a 56-year-old sports coach, until she was 18 and they were married,” she said. “Then the victim realized she was then in a very abusive relationship and finally re-united with her family.”
Because there were specific situations drafted, there was a need to compact the bill to make sure there would be no loopholes.
“When we went back to the drawing board, we came back with a simple, streamlined bill which sets a clear expectation that predatory sexual behavior by our teachers is completely unacceptable,” Boner said.
SF 65 had eight authors while SF 129 has 13, including two women. Boner said that there were no female legislators with legal expertise when SF 65 was written.
“There are now two very proficient attorneys on our Senate Judiciary Committee, who happen to be women who have proven to be very proficient in these matters,” he said. “I appreciate the expertise they have provided in preparing SF129 so our statutes will make sense to the attorneys who would prosecute these crimes.”
Reporting sexual assaults of minors will remain the same. The change is the ability to prosecute.
“Nothing in the bill changes victim’s ability to report,” Muir said. “If someone who is age 18 and still a student in a K-12 school, is subject to sexual contact by this ‘person in authority,’ there these new provisions, if passed, that would help prosecute.”
Muir asked that those who have had experiences relating to this issue call the House.
“It would be great if people who have had experience with similar issues, and their family members, called the House of Representatives and asked that it [SB129] be heard on general file, and passed as soon as possible,” she said.