Last November, Los Angeles Unified School District lawyers fighting a civil lawsuit argued in court that a 14-year-old middle school student was mature enough to consent to having sex with her 28-year-old teacher, and that she bore some responsibility for what happened. The district's attorneys also introduced the girl's sexual history into the trial as part of their defense strategy.
Two legal experts sharply criticized the school district for using those tactics. They also said the case highlights a little-known conflict in California law: while the age of consent is firmly set at 18 in criminal cases, at least two appellate court rulings have found that in civil cases, it is possible to argue that a minor can consent to sex with an adult.
Listen to KPCC investigative producer Karen Foshay’s story here
Karen Foshay, KPCC’s investigative producer who broke the story
Jennifer Drobac, Professor of Law at Indiana University. Her forthcoming book on minors and consent is titled “Worldly But Not Yet Wise: Teen Sexual Exploitation, Adolescent Development, and Consent Law” (University of Chicago Press, 2015)
Marci Hamilton, Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School in Yeshiva University in New York