Getting Answers: legality of student-teacher relationships in Massachusetts

Getting Answers: legality of student-teacher relationships in Massachusetts
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 10:42 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -An investigation is still underway in Springfield after photos of controversial text messages circulated online, alleging that a teacher at Springfield’s High School of Science and Technology had an inappropriate relationship with a student.

We wanted to know more about the legality of the situation in the Bay State.

While it is against school policy and the educator could lose their job, it is not illegal in the state of Massachusetts for a school employee to have a consensual sexual relationship with a student if they are 16 or older. We caught up with Senator John Velis who told us he wants to outlaw this type of behavior.

“It fundamentally doesn’t make sense. It’s not what students are there to do,” said Velis.

A Springfield High School of Science & Technology employee is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student, after multiple posts containing text messages went viral on social media.

The posts have since been removed, but we got a hold of them beforehand and took a look for ourselves.

In one message the person, believed to be a teacher at Sci-Tech wrote:

“Ima let you wait baby girl” going on to say, “Cuz when I smack it Ima smack it”.

The other person, believed to be the student replies: “Nah smack it nowww.”

In another string of messages, the alleged teacher asks – “U still wearing that shirt?”

The alleged student replies, “Nah I had to go into an appointment why wassup love”.

The alleged teacher said “Wanted to see more” with an emoji of a monkey covering its eyes…”That was a nice tease”.

While this type of relationship is against Springfield Public Schools policy, if the student is at least 16 years old, no legal action could be taken due to current laws in Massachusetts.

“Currently 16 and above, there’s nothing on the books that prohibits someone from engaging in a consensual relationship with a teacher,” said Velis.

State Senator John Velis said he thinks that needs to change, due to the power dynamic between a teacher and a student.

“It’s a school environment. It doesnt make sense for there to be a sexual relationship or otherwise between a school, a student rather and a teacher. It’s literally contrary to everything that should be going on in a school system,” said Velis.

Velis said legislators are already working on taking action against this type of conduct.

“There are a couple of bills working their way through the process right now that are actually in ways and means that would prohibit that...The onus is on us to really move that legislation forward ,so that bill in fact becomes a law,” said Velis.

He said that bill was filed in January of 2021 and action on these bills should be taken by the end of July. We reached out to Springfield public schools and the Springfield Police Department and spokespeople for both told us they are aware of the social media post circulating online and its accusations and an investigation is underway. A Springfield school committee member confirmed with Western Mass News that a teacher has been placed on administrative leave over a personnel matter.