State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, has announced legislation that aims to close a loophole in cases involving sexual assault on students perpetrated by school system employees.
Under the current state definition for improper sexual contact by an employee or agent, sexual assault of a student occurs when the victim is “enrolled as a student at the school.” Miller wants to expand the definition to include students “within the school district.”
Felony sexual assault charges were dropped earlier this year against Webster Daniel, a former coach at Chestatee High School who worked as an in-school suspension teacher at Chestatee Academy.
Daniel has been accused of assaulting a 16-year-old female student at Chestatee High. In May, Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh sent the case down to Hall County State Court, dropping the felony charge because Daniel did not teach at the school the student attended.
“Until such time that the legislature makes appropriate changes to the law, this charge would not apply because the defendant did not work as a teacher in the same school as the victim,” Darragh wrote in his transfer notice.
Miller said he hoped the legislation would further protect students who have been assaulted.
“When legislation we pass doesn’t go far enough to protect our most vulnerable citizens like students in our schools, we must address necessary changes as soon as possible,” Miller said in a statement. “This legislation will fix an oversight in our existing law and will add necessary protections for victims of sexual assault by ensuring their perpetrators can be brought to justice. I hope we can get this legislation passed and to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible during the 2020 Legislative Session.”
Prefiling of legislation will begin Nov. 15, and legislators will reconvene early next year.