SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A California lawmaker wants to make it illegal for teachers to have relationships with students even if the student is 18 like the case of the Modesto teacher and his student girlfriend.
Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen’s first reaction to the case of former Enochs High School teacher James Hooker, who resigned after news broke of his relationship with student Jordan Powers, was that of a mother.
“I was horrified,” she said Wednesday. “I was just appalled.”
Her next reaction was that of a lawmaker. She wants to introduce the bill to not only make a student-teacher relationship illegal, but to also take away the teacher’s pension.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll have a wide array of support for this bill,” she said. “And we’ve discovered that in 23 other states this would’ve been illegal, this would be a felony conviction even if she were 18 years old.”
Hooker, 41, insists he began his relationship with Powers when she turned 18. But Olsen’s proposed law would make it not a misdemeanor but a felony for any teacher-student relationship regardless of age. What’s more, Assembly Bill 1861 she plans to introduce next week would give a school district the power to take away a teacher’s pension and other retirement benefits if found in a relationship with a student.
Right now Hooker stands to get all his benefits from the Modesto district.
The couple appeared on the “Dr. Phil” show on Tuesday.
“We actually fell in love toward the end of January,” Hooker said on the show. “There was a little bit of hugging, kissing.”
“I didn’t think about him being married, being my teacher,” Powers said. “I didn’t care.”
But Olsen said a student-teacher relationship isn’t about love.
“This is about inappropriate, highly unethical behavior,” she said. “It’s a clear violation of trust, an abuse of power.”