The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sexual interaction between teachers and students when it reversed a teacher’s conviction of sexual assault.
David Paschal, a former teacher at Elkins High School engaged in a sexual relationship with one of his students in 2010. The student who was 18 years old, alerted authorities of her relationship with Paschal after the two separated.
The former history and psychology instructor was charged with four counts of sexual assault and was sentence to 30 years behind bars.
However, since the student was a legal adult and the sex was consensual, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted Paschal his freedom.
"Regardless of how we feel about Paschal's conduct, which could correctly be referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts," the court said.
The court’s ruling has left many wondering, are teacher-student sexual relationships legal if the student is 18?
According to Arkansas law, a student must be 21 in order to participate in sexual relations with teachers but Thursday's decision may setathe example for possible future cases.
"When we brought the issue up on the appeal it was specifically as this law applied to these facts, adult teacher, adult student, private consensual relationship," said Paschal's lawyer, Casey D. Campbell, to TodaysTHV.com.
Campbell reiterated even though theses relationships may be acceptable in some instances through the court system, the Arkansas School Districts have no obligation to keep such violators on their payroll.
"On one side, the Supreme Court said you know if it's consensual it may be okay, we still have the professional side of it on the ethics standards that says it's not," said Dr. Richard Abernathy, the Executive Director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators to TodaysTHV.com.
Abernathy alleges that Paschal’s actions violate the code of ethics set by the state. Paschal and others are still subject to lose their license if they are found guilty of misconduct.
"It's still wrong. It's not right," concluded Abernathy.