Arkansas' Supreme Court struck down a state law that bans teachers from having sex with students for being unconstitutional as it applies to sex between teachers and students who are 18 or older.
The decision came from an appeal by former Elkins High School teacher David Waldon Paschal, 38, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after admitting to a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student.
In the court's decision, Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote that the law on sexual contact between students under 21 and public school employees criminalizes sexual conduct between adults.
Hannah said that a law that infringes on a constitutional right in order to promote a state interest must do so by the least restrictive means available, and the law did not meet those standards.
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, Hannah wrote.
In the dissenting opinion, Justice Robert Brown wrote that once this opinion is handed down there will be nothing to prevent sexual contact between high school teachers and enrolled students who have turned 18.
A spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Aaron Sadler, said, We respect the court's decision, although we disagree with it. We are currently evaluating our options, which include seeking a rehearing.
I think that this case does not necessarily say a teacher can do that and keep their job, Casey Copeland, Paschal's attorney, told USA Today. I think the loss of a job and loss of teacher's license might be appropriate for that, but it's not appropriate to put someone in jail for 30 years.