(CN) - It did not violate a teacher's privacy rights by prosecuting him for having consensual sex with an 18-year-old high school student, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled.
Charles Edwards, 30, worked as a choir teacher for the Wichita School District.
In March 2010, he had consensual sex with a student, A.C.A., who was 18 at the time. She drove herself to Edwards' home in Sedgwick County, and supplied Edwards with a condom.
Edwards was then convicted of unlawful sexual relations in violation of a Kansas law that criminalizes sexual relations between a teacher and a student.
The Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed Edwards' conviction Friday, finding that the constitutional right to privacy does not protect the right of a teacher to have sex with students enrolled at the same school.
"Teachers are vested with a great deal of trust by the school districts, the parents, the public, and the students themselves," Judge Stephen Hill wrote for the three-judge panel. "Our legislature has sought to preserve that trust by prohibiting teachers from misusing their access to students as a means to obtain sex. A sexually charged learning environment would confuse, disturb, and distract students, thus undermining the quality of education in Kansas."
Though the U.S. Supreme Court used privacy rights to strike down a state law against homosexual sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas, this case involves a relationship where consent might not easily be refused, the Kansas appellate judges found.
They wrote: "We find it exceedingly important that the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence specifically noted: 'The present case does not involve minors. It does not involve persons who might be injured or coerced or who are situated in relationships where consent might not easily be refused.' (Emphasis added.)"
In 2007, Kansas lawmakers "removed from the unlawful sexual relations statute any language concerning the age of the student," according to the decision.
"From this amendment, we conclude that the age of the student is not as important to the legislature as the relationship of teacher/student," Hill wrote.
The decision concludes by noting the legitimate interest that Kansas has in keeping a school environment "safe and free from sexual coercion from those in positions of authority or trust."
"This law recognizes the disparity of power inherent in the teacher/student relationship," Hill wrote. "Students attend school to learn and should not be subject to sexual pressures from their teachers. There is a rational basis for this law. It is constitutional. We affirm the conviction."
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