A teacher in Harlem, Georgia has been arrested for allegedly having sexual contact with a male student. But some people are questioning why the arrest happened when both teacher and student are of legal age. We have the latest on the controversy surrounding 23-year-old Lesley Douglas and her 19-year-old student.
Sex at a Boat Ramp
According to authorities, on the evening of March 27, 2018, Douglas engaged in a sexual act with the unnamed 19-year-old student.
This allegedly occurred at Winfield Hills Boat Ramp 2 on the 7500 block of Lakeside Drive in Appling.
Authorities claim to know of at least two incidents involving sexual contact between Douglas and the student.
The principal of Harlem High School, Dietmar Perez, was tipped off to the suspected relationship by a student and authorities were contacted on April 11. The next day, Douglas resigned from her position at Harlem High.
On April 16, Douglas was arrested and charged with sexual assault. She was released the next day on a $5,000 bond.
Georgia’s “Supervisory” Sexual Assault Laws
Many people may be wondering why Lesley Douglas has been accused of committing a crime. The legal age of consent in Georgia is 16, and both Douglas and her alleged victim are older than that.
The difference in this case is that Georgia has laws governing sexual offenses when it comes to those in a position of authority.
According to Georgia’s criminal code, “a person who has supervisory or disciplinary authority over another individual commits sexual assault when that person is a teacher, principal, assistant principal, or other administrator of any school and that person engages in sexual contact with such other individual who the actor knew or should have known is enrolled at the same school.”
The only loophole in this law is if the teacher and student are married.
These laws do not just apply to teachers and educators. They also govern members of the military and police and prison staff—people who have an authority that can easily be abused.
And in the case of a teacher, the mental maturity of an alleged victim may be considered.
While opinions may differ between mental health professionals on when the brain is done maturing, the general consensus is that the brain continues developing until age 25. Some say brain development may even continue until the 30s.
This is tied to the maturity of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. From ages 18 to 25, this area of the brain continues the process of maturation that began with puberty. That’s why people in their late teens have less impulse control. Logical thinking and risk management are also not quite where they should be as an adult.
Lesley Douglas Case Not the Only One of Its Kind
It’s easy to see why Georgia’s “supervisory” sexual assault laws are being applied in this case. There are the obvious questions with regards to possible coercion and abuse of power in the student/teacher relationship. There are also questions about the alleged victim’s maturity.
And this isn’t the first time these laws have been applied. Most recently in Gwinnett County, Georgia, 37-year-old Brad Elliott was arrested in March. While working at Buford High School as a teacher and football coach, Elliott allegedly had sex with a student who was of legal age. He’s also accused of inappropriately touching another student.