Experts talk red flags, AL law when it comes to teacher-student sex cases

Prosecutors and child abuse experts share information for parents
(Source: WAFF)
Updated: Apr. 18, 2019 at 6:46 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It’s a case that has shocked many in Madison County- the arrest of a former high school teacher who is accused of having sex with with a student.

Tim Douthit, Madison County assistant district attorney, took the time to break down the law, explaining that in Alabama, the age of consent for sex is 16. But there’s an exception for school teachers.

“The assumption is that once you’re 16, whether it’s true or not, that you are old enough to consent to sexual activity with anybody on earth that’s also over 16. The one exception to that rule is for school teachers. If you’re school teacher, you can’t have sex with a student at your school until they’re after 19. Even if they’re over 16, even if it otherwise would be consensual, we’re not going to let you do it if you’re a teacher,” he said.

Lyndsey Sherrod Bates, 22, a former teacher at Madison County High School, is charged with consensual, but unlawful sex with a student at the school. She has resigned and she is no longer employed by the school system.

(Source: Madison County Jail)

Douthit says in these kinds of cases, social media is a part of it because there is no longer a clearly defined line between the authority figure and the students.

"These days, especially with younger teachers, a lot of that is getting blurred where it would almost seem weird for them not to just be friends with everybody they know. It's the same way with the students. Once you cross that line on social media on Facebook or Snapchat, things get way more personal then they probably should have been," Douthit stated.

Dr. Paula Wolfteich, Intervention & Clinical Director at the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, says there's no one profile or set of signs or symptoms for children who have been sexually abused. Parents should look for changes in their behavior.

“When they disclose sexual abuse, it’s a gradual process, it doesn’t’ happen all at once. They look to their parents to support them and reassure them,” Dr. Wolfteich said.

The executive director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC) says female abusers in the general population account for only 8% of cases. But when you place that woman in a school setting, it spikes to more than three times that.

"At a very early age, start talking about body safety and difficult feelings and difficult situations. Open that communication door for them so that when they're older and they're teenagers, they have that ability to come and talk to their parents about these difficult things. It really starts at the preschool range," Dr. Wolfteich added.

The NCAC shared more information on what educators need to know about sexual misconduct with students and what parents need to know about educator sexual misconduct with students.

Bates turned herself in at the Madison County Jail last week on three charges of a School Employee Distributing Obscene Material to a Student, one charge of a School Employee Engaged in a Sexual Act with a Student and one charge of a School Employee having Sexual Contact with a Student.

No specific details of the investigation were released because of the nature of the charges.

Bates is out of jail on bond as she waits for her case to go through the court system.

“Kids, especially teenagers, we expect they’re going to do stupid things. Your job as a teacher is if not to discourage them, at least to not to participate in the stupid things that the teenagers are doing. That’s the reason we charge these cases,” Douthit said.

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