TULSA, Okla. - An Oklahoma City attorney says he believes the age of consent for a student to have sex with a teacher or other school official should be the same as that for anyone else, 16 years of age.
David Slane represents Tyrone Nash, charged with raping a 16-year-old female student with whom he had a reportedly consensual sexual relationship.
Nash taught and coached boys' basketball at Western Heights High School in Oklahoma City.
He was arrested in September of last year and accused of having sex with the female student, who was a sophomore at the time.
Documents filed in the case indicate the sex was consensual, and normally a 16-year-old girl can legally consent to sex.
But in Oklahoma, there's an exception for school employees, and they can be charged with rape for having sex with anyone under the age of 20.
"Theoretically there could be a young man hired in the summer to cut the grass, and if was involved with that young woman he could be charged with rape," Slane told KRMG.
That means the law covers teachers even if, as in the Nash case, the defendant was not the student's teacher at the time of the sexual contact.
Moreover, the teacher or school employee, if found guilty, is then classified as a sexual offender for life.
Slane says Oklahoma's law is flawed, and he wants it changed.
"It's just a very poorly written law, and I think it's unconstitutional the way it's written," he said.
He doesn't advocate teachers having sex with students, he says, but the law needs to be modified to include only teachers who have direct power and authority over the student.
He's filed a constitutional challenge to the law, and he has some reason to hope for victory.
The Arkansas Supreme Court recently struck down a similar law, and Slane says he's ready to fight the issue all the way to the Supreme Court here in Oklahoma.
The ruling in the Arkansas case was issued in March of this year, but there were some differences.
In that instance, the student was 18, and the Arkansas law prohibited sexual contact between students younger than 21 and their teachers.