October 1, 2014

Harsher punishment for predator teachers

10-1-2014 Florida:

32 new laws go into effect including Stop Harassing Underage Teens Act

Thirty two new laws passed by the 2014 Florida legislative session and signed by Gov. Rick Scott got into effect Wednesday. One of the new laws will bring stricter penalties for school officials who take advantage of students sexually.

This law was actually introduced by a group of high school students who wanted to crack down on teacher predators. Local attorney Gene Nichols said this law will affect not just school teachers, but any authority figure at a school.

Nichols said with this new law a charge can be upgraded or reclassified from a third degree felony to a second degree and a second degree to a first degree, meaning stricter punishment.

"As long as it helps someone, if it keeps a young person or two or 10 from this happening to them, then the law is well worth it," said Nichols.

About 50 teachers a year lose their licenses in Florida because of sexual misconduct with students, and with the new laws, those crimes could carry much more jail time and higher fines, and in certain cases, possibly a life sentence Nichols hopes this law sends a strong message.

"It has put teachers and school officials on notice that if you were to commit a crime against a student, a child who happens to also be a student, the punishments are now more harsh than what they have before," said Nichols.

The law is called the Stop Harassing Underage Teens Act and was created by students from a Tampa High School. Nichols says the law likely won't affect first degree felony charges but will allow a second or third degree felony charge to be reclassified to a higher charge.

"Kudos to the young people who brought this to legislature to help enforce and make tougher penalties for people who sexually abuse a student," said Nichols. ..Continued.. by Elizabeth Campbell,

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