Ark. Court Rules Teachers Can Have Sexual Relationship With Of-Age Students

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the state’s law banning sexual contact between teachers and students, finding that people 18 or older have a constitutional right to engage in a consensual sexual relationship.

The court sided with 38-year-old David Paschal, an Elkins High School history and psychology teacher who admitted having a five-month consensual sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student.

“Regardless of how we feel about Paschal’s conduct, which could correctly referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts,” wrote Chief Justice Jim Hannah.

Attorneys for the state argued the law protects high school students from sexual advances of teachers who are in positions of authority. But the high court found the law was unconstitutional because it criminalized sexual conduct between consenting adults.

In a dissent, Justice Robert Brown said that the majority’s opinion will cause disruption in high schools because there will be nothing to prevent teachers from having sex with students who are 18 or older.

“This will cause significant disruption in our high schools and have a deleterious impact on education in general and the teacher-student dynamic in particular,” wrote Brown.

It is unclear if the state will appeal the ruling.

“We respect the Court’s decision, although we disagree with it,” wrote Aaron Sadler, spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in an email. “We are currently evaluating our options, which include seeking a rehearing.”

Whether the ruling will or can be addressed through future legislation is also unclear.

“We’re reviewing the decision,” said Matt DeCample, spokesman for Governor Mike Beebe. “It’s way too early to talk about any immediate attempts at a legislative response.”

Paschal, who is serving a 30-year sentence, will have his convictions reversed and dismissed. His attorney, Casey Copeland, said his client was “vindicated by the Supreme Court.”

“I think that this case does not necessarily say a teacher can do that and keep their job,” said Copeland. “I think the loss of job and loss of teacher’s license might be appropriate for that, but it’s not appropriate to put someone in jail for 30 years.”

Several states have laws banning sexual content between teachers and students. Earlier this week, a Republican assemblywoman in California introduced a bill to create a law similar to what was just struck down in Arkansas. If the bill is successful, she said, California would be the 24th state to ban student-teacher sex. In some states, such affairs are a felony.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Lazybum

    Even if they are still in fifth grade?

    • Jebediah_Springfield

      Too lazy; didn’t read?

      • laffin'atcha

        18 year old fifth grader. can’t read so flat backing their way thru school…

    • Kevin

      Guess you missed the “finding that people 18 or older have a constitutional right to engage in a consensual sexual relationship” statement?

      • HotForTeacher

        More proof how orchestrated the news is. Unelected officials took over Washington and the media after the coup and cover up. Even most of the comments online are financed with your tax dollars. Big brother is trying to create the perception of public opinion while burying the truth. They think you can’t handle the truth. Fact of the matter is we have no democracy, president, and freedom of press is an illusion.

        Our next election is shaping up to be as big of a sham as the last. Do you know why Sarah Palin’s bus tour was really canceled? Do you know why she stayed 30 miles away from the second debate and chose the death of Steve Jobs to announce that she’s not running? Know what leaked out? Sarah Palin and Cain aren’t in the race for the same reason, the truth leaked out.

        Search PalinsDirtyLittleSecret for the biggest cover up in world history before it disappears forever much like me.

      • CK

        Kevin said, “Guess you missed the “finding that people 18 or older have a constitutional right to engage in a consensual sexual relationship” statement”

        Guess you missed the Tenth Amendment.

      • Andrew P

        An 18 year old could be held back for 7 years and be in 5th grade. However, she probably wouldn’t qualify as a “competent” adult in that case.

      • UyeahU

        I believe this was meant as a joke, as in 18 year olds in Arkansas schools still in the 5th grade. Sad it has to be explained.

      • david

        And have you ever heard of conflict of interest?

  • rex dart eskimo spy

    Almost makes me want to teach again.

    • Duke Dearborn

      Have sex with the teacher and get an A+ .. what a great country OmeriKa is, turning out people that can pass the exam is they provide a slam.


    • Josie

      It’s ARKANSAS, what do you expect? Probably all the judges on the Court are inbreeds and banging each other after court, too.

      • Dean P

        Typical idiot thinking Arkansan’s are inbread. I don’t agree with the teacher / student relationship, but they are legally adults .An offended Arkansan.

    • Bob


  • suibne

    ….or ….mighht be a whole lot of new applicatio0ns filled out to teach in Arkansas. Migtht be a good thing. Never kinow.

  • DaveC

    There is something drastically wrong with our laws when, even the judge says:

    “Regardless of how we feel about Paschal’s conduct, which could correctly referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts.”

    History has taught us those nations that abandoned GOD, were abandoned by GOD.

    • Knight Hawkings

      Actually this is exactly the type of judge you want, you don’t want their personal feelings on case to cloud their legal judgment. People may not like it but this was a an entirely proper ruling. Now if the school wants to fire him over it for breach of employment contract or their own ethical standards that’s fine but it’s not a criminal act.

      • candysniper

        Couldn’t agree more. Wish more people would recognize this and support intelligent jurisprudence instead of some of the incredibly stupid rulings passed down by less legally-constrained judges. It’s unethical, absolutely, and stinks and will, of course, be abused, but whether it’s legal or not shouldn’t be the question.

    • Kevin D

      Let’s say I agree it should be a crime.

      And also that you’re qualified to know the minimum sentence it will take before God feels the court has not abandoned him:

      1. is 30 years too short or too long?
      2. would the death penalty be o.k.? If “no”, because it’s too severe or not severe enough?

      BTW-I know you know God’s will, but what marks did you get in history?

    • Mike B.


    • richhenk

      You should try Egypt or Syria, et al. Their laws all revolve around GOD, it should work great for you.

    • Cam S.

      What exactly does GOD have to do with this? The “Virgin Mary” was most likely 15 or 16 when “GOD” got her pregnant. The idea that teenagers should not be having sex or marrying, even much older men, is a very recent phenomenon in modern culture. My great grandmother was 15 when she got married had her first child, and she is one of the most amazing women I ever had the privilege of meeting. The “GOD” that you are referring to is the one who designed females who are sexually mature by the time they are 13-16. Was your GOD wrong to do so?

      • rufus2009a

        that was because the Used to die in their thirties dumkoff

  • ClumBaby

    This truly draws the line between what is illegal…..and gross.

  • ConservativeProfessor

    Actually, this is a good development. If you can vote at age 18, then you can decide with whom you want to have sex. Which behavior has a greater impact on our country?

    • george

      If you’re Ms. Fluke, it’s about evenly spread.

      • Some Hick

        huh-huh huh, you said “spread”. How apropos

  • John C

    Nothing states the school can’t hold him to ethical standards…May be “legal” but employers can have ethical rules and hold employees to them. Of course, he is part of a union….

    • RenB

      He might not be part of a union any more….union busting going around as well.

    • Kevin D


      You got that right.

      Saying he can’t be sentenced to 30 years doesn’t mean he gets to keep his job.

      Like a lot of constitutional rights they’ll keep you out of jail, but won’t keep you from getting fired (eg. telling your customers your competitor is better, refusing to incriminate yourself by answering the boss’ question on a work snafu, having sex with the boss mother (assumiing she’s at least 18).

  • BillClinton

    It’s about time!

  • Paradigm Shift

    Well, it is Bill Clinton’s home state so should anyone be surprised?

    • bob68

      I want you to know Arkansas is not a backward state. They just named the Little Rock airport the “Clinton International Airport”, and as far as I know all of Bill’s girls
      were over 16.

      Arkansas politicians are so proud of Slick Willie, even though Bill and Hill both got the heck out of Arkansas as soon as they had used it for a stepping stone to being super rich.

  • JR

    It’s Arkansas, for pitty’s sake! Of course it’s okay. Heck, you know you’re in Arkansas when both Mother and daughter attend the same elementary school the same year. You can’t use DNA testing for crimes in Arkansas because — well, there’s only a few unique sets of DNA.

    • Troy

      You’re making a joke about incest. Are you really so naive as to believe that incest results in a child with an identical genome to that of his/her parents? Perhaps you are a product of Arkansas schools?

      • Carry

        Well, there are only about 150 last names there … so you do the genetic breakdown. J/K

  • DR

    They can get practice providing sexual favors for grades before they enroll in a college now … excellent idea. Now the pervs will all start getting teaching certs and move to Arkansas …

  • Bob

    What if the “teacher” dual enrolled and graduated early? I know people at work that are only 23 years old and have a master’s degree. They could easily get a job teaching. What I’m saying is that being a teacher doesn’t necessarily mean there is a huge age difference from their students.

  • Jon B

    Why are you having sex with that girl?

    Hey she is over 18!

    Yes but she’s your daughter!

    It ok I live in Arkansas!

    • B1LANCER


  • pafrog

    Arkansas age of consent is 16 so that would make it legal for a teacher to have sex with a 16 year old student. the student in question was 18 but the actual age of consent is 16. The law forbidding persons of athourity from having a relationship with a student was to prevent young men and women from being coerced into a sexual relationship. Arkansas also has no age gap provision so a 60 year old teacher may now have legal sex with a 16 year old student.. We write the laws we live with but the courts tell us how.

  • Kver

    The things Arkansas students can do to get their grades up, down, up, down, Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa+!

    It’s okay, Arkansas can’t become anymore of a laughingstock than it already is.

  • caligula

    going to get my teacher’s certificate today.

  • billslycat

    If companies can set a policy of no intra-office romances, why can’t a school simply make it policy? It doesn’t have to be a law. Is the teachers union objecting to such a policy? If a teacher has a romantic fling with a high school student, it should be grounds for firing, even if he or she has tenure.

  • TexanPatriot

    This is better addressed in an employment setting, not as a criminal act.

    A school district should fire a teacher in breach of standards of conduct, but a 30 year sentence for sex with a former student who is the age of consent is going a bit too far.

    And the state “appealing”? Where would they appeal to? Federal courts do not “outrank” State courts. If Arkansas pursues a Federal ruling, then they are part of the problem and reason why Federalism has failed — they allow it to. Their supreme court spoke, end of appeals.

    • Knight Hawkings

      Best comment yet.

    • carrollcounty

      If the state supreme court based the ruling on the fed constitution then the AG can appeal to SCOTUS. Also, if the state can’t legally sanction the teacher under criminal law because it his constitutional right to engage in the behavior, then the state can also not sanction him by dismissal, or a pay cut, nor any other way because the state is, of course, a “state actor” under the 14th amendment. If that is what the ruling is based on. So no jail, no firing, no reprimand, no nothing unless contract law can provide a way to control this behavior – a dubious proposition at best. If the decision was based wholly or in part on the eight amendment then it would be a different story. I admit I haven’t read it yet, although I could probably write it by just guessing at the majority rationale.

      • carrollcounty

        Well, I’ll reply to myself. I still can’t find the case online but I just read a better synopsis of it. Apparently it is based on Arkansas supreme court precedent (a ridiculous left wing substantive due process “privacy” decision but whatever) so TexanPatriot is indeed correct on that point. I stand corrected, by myself. I do find it not necessarily obvious that he can be fired or reprimanded for the same behavior though. Would that be the “least restrictive means” of carrying out the state’s interest? I don’t think we can say that will be the court’s holding in the future for sure. It is interesting that the Arkansas precedent for this holding is based on a strict scrutiny review – whereas L v. TX was partly based on rational basis review (O’ Connor).

  • SamEagle

    I heard Clinton is applying for a job at Little Rock High School

  • bytejockey

    Just because a court has declared this conduct legal does not imply it is wise, nor should it prevent the school system from firing the teacher in question if this behavior violates school policy.

  • Frank hackett


  • Jack 63

    Putting in my teaching application to the Univ of Arkansas today!

  • george

    How do such relations affect the teacher’s ability or inclination to treat ALL his students impartially? Doesn’t matter, huh?

  • When Courts Go WILD

    Totally outrageous! I suppose Arkansas will next pass a law that it’s OK for psychotherapists to have such relations with their patients, as long as both are “consenting adults”!? Haven’t they ever heard of “power over” and the deleterious effects of a “person of authority” having intimate relations with a “subordinate”? Oh, yeah, they HAVE heard of it! It was clearly pointed out in the referenced court case.

    What a bunch of backwards neanderthals!!

    • Rationality

      This law doesn’t state that you can’t fire a teacher for doing this. This is just saying that if you are a teacher, and have consensual sex with someone 18 or older, you don’t go to prison for 30 years.

      Teachers will be fired and their teaching licenses suspended, but they don’t deserve to go to prison for this.

      Someone who murders someone can be released after 25 years, but someone who has consensual sex with an adult should serve longer?

      That seems backwards to me.


    It all depends on what IS is…

    –famous quote from someone who hailed from ARKANSAS

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