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Teacher Student Romance.JPE.JPGAngered by a 41-year-old Modesto teacher who moved in with an 18-year-old student, a California lawmaker is crafting legislation that would strip teachers of their retirement benefits in such cases.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen called it appalling that current law provides no consequences for a love relationship between a teacher and high school student, if both are adults.

"My point is, whether you're 18, 17 or 14, the fact remains that a teacher is in a position of authority and influence over that student, and therefore, it is highly inappropriate," said Olsen, R-Modesto.

Olsen's legislation was sparked by news last month that Enochs High School teacher James Hooker had resigned his job and moved in with an 18-year-old student, Jordan Powers, who is now taking classes through independent study.

Hooker and Powers have denied dating when the student was a minor, but police are investigating that possibility.

Olsen's bill, to be introduced as Assembly Bill 1861, would strip a teacher of pension and retiree benefits for having an inappropriate relationship with a student at the same school. The bill may be unveiled early next week, she said.

A sexual relationship would be covered by the legislation, but a more comprehensive definition of inappropriate relationship remains under consideration, said Jennifer Gibbons, Olsen's spokeswoman.

Because no such law existed when Hookers and Powers began dating, Olsen said she believes her bill would apply only to future cases.

To lose pension rights under Olsen's bill, a teacher would undergo the same type of administrative review process used to determine whether sanctions are warranted for other kinds of behavior, Olsen said.

The Republican lawmaker said she is researching whether the state could make it a felony crime for a teacher to romance a student, even if both are adults. If attorneys give the green light, she may amend her bill to outlaw such relationships, Olsen said.

"We're trying to find every possible way that we can make sure our kids are safe in school, that those are secure environments, safe places for learning - and for a teacher to lose his or her public pension is a pretty strong and painful deterrent," she said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Enochs High School student Jordan Powers, 18, and James Hooker, 41, talk about their relationship during an interview on Feb. 28, 2012 in Modesto, AP Photo/The Modesto Bee, Debbie Noda



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