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Close loophole in state law

On Thursday, New Hampshire lawmakers heard testimony about closing a loophole in the state’s sex abuse laws.

A pair of bills were filed in response to an incident at Concord High School where a teacher was charged with sexually assaulting a student off school property in Massachusetts in 2015 and 2016. The teacher has since pled not guilty.

Later, in 2018, school officials did not report the teacher to police after he was seen kissing a different student, because state law allows teenagers 16 and older to consent to such contact they are are not being coerced.

Sponsors of the legislation – Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, and Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro – said Thursday they back an amendment offered by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence combining elements of their proposed bills.

The amendment would specifically criminalize sexual contact between primary or secondary school employees and any student, regardless of the student’s age or the use of coercion. It also would criminalize sexual contact between teens ages 16 or 17 and anyone in a position of authority outside of school, including coaches, clergy and scout leaders.

The bills have the backing of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. In a letter to the committee, he said he was extremely concerned with the Concord case.

“Every child deserves to go to school, be on the playing field, attend summer camp and visit a place of worship without being subject to predatory behavior by those who are supposed to be teaching or caring for them,” he wrote.

Sununu is on the mark. Children should not have to worry about being subjected to such behavior at school. Obviously, teachers, coaches and others in a position of authority should know better, and stiffer punishments should be in place to deter such behavior, something this legislation should correct.

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