A Kansas state legislator has proposed a bill that would decriminalize consensual sexual contact between kids under the age of 14—a much-needed update to the state's draconian laws, which currently criminalize sexual contact up to age 16.
Democratic Rep. Dennis Highberger's bill, HB 2738, would remove the criminal penalties associated with consensual sexual acts committed between kids ages 11 to 14. "Children of these ages are together in junior high school, and any sexual experimentation between them would be much better handled by parents, teachers and counselors than by the juvenile justice system," said Highberger, according to The Wichita Eagle.
The bill is partly inspired by the ordeal of Randy Masten, whose 14-year-old son was charged with a felony for engaging in mutual, consensual kissing and touching with a 13-year-old girl in a school elevator:
After the encounter came to light, he was contacted by a police officer who was investigating. Nearly a year later, in January 2017, Masten's son was charged. The charges were later dropped. Masten said he spent nearly $13,000 on an attorney and never found out why the case went away.
He said his son and the girl were 55 days apart in age.
"What if we did not have the means to defend our son? An overzealous DA and judicial system, following the letter of the law as it stands, could have destroyed my son's life and wrecked the lives of my wife and myself as well," Masten said.
It should be up to parents and teachers to decide what is and isn't appropriate teen behavior, and to deal with it accordingly. No one benefits when consensual touching between same-aged kids is a criminal offense: not the education system, not the overburdened criminal justice system, and certainly not the kids themselves.