Rhode Island moms fight loophole in consent laws that allow teachers to engage in sexual relationships with teen students

Rhode Island allows sexual relationships between 14-year-olds and adults, as long as it is consensual and as long as there is no penetration.

Ashley St. Clair New York NY

States representatives in Rhode Island have launched a bipartisan effort in the House and Senate to close a disturbing loophole in Rhode Island's consent laws.

In Rhode Island, the age of consent is currently 16. Disturbingly, Rhode Island allows sexual relationships between 14-year-olds and adults, as long as it is consensual and as long as there is no penetration.

Regardless of general consent laws, most states have additional legislation that, regardless of age of consent, sexual relationships between school teachers and their students are prohibited— except for Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

As a result of this loophole, a school teacher in Rhode Island is legally allowed to have a sexual, nonpenetrative relationship with a 14-year-old child and a sexual relationship with penetration with a 16-year-old child.

Enraged mothers, politicians, and advocates have joined forces to pass legislation "that will close a loophole that allows those in positions of authority to engage in sexual relations with children."

Erika Sanzi, Director of Outreach at Parents Defending Education, is one of the front-facing advocates on the issue, testifying at multiple public hearings as far back as 2018. Sanzi is a mother of three boys herself and discovered this loophole while doing research on another matter in 2018.

Sanzi has tried since 2018 to get these legislative loopholes closed, facing a variety of roadblocks throughout the years. Recently, Sanzi received a massive upswing of support for her efforts this past year, which she told The Post Millennial she contributes to the "parental momentum that we saw after COVID."

Sanzi will speak today at the Rhode Island State House Library, alongside other mothers as well as Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz (R) and Representative Julie Casimiro (D) in support of Senate and House bills to close the loophole (2022-S 2219) and (2022-H 8230).

"Parents are very motivated and engaged," says Sanzi. She remains hopeful that Rhode Island will mimic nearly every other state in the country and amend their laws to stop the exploitation of children by those in positions of authority.

This effort comes on the heels of a lawsuit against Rhode Island school officials by a student claiming they enabled sexual abuse by former high school basketball coach, Aaron Thomas.


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