Iowa teachers who sexually abuse students are getting off with probation despite a state law making at least some prison time mandatory. A Des Moines Register investigation discovered at least seven teachers received no prison time for sexually abusing students over the past five years.Two teachers who sexually abused students 15 years old or younger had their 10-year prison sentences waived by judges in favor of five years of probation. Another teacher who had sex with a 17-year-old student got only one year of probation with the possibility of having her conviction expunged.
A 1997 Iowa law says anyone who is a "mandatory reporter" of child abuse can't be given only probation for such crimes. That includes teachers. "It means that if you’re a teacher, you can’t have sex with children or you’re going to prison. Period," says the former state representative who sponsored the law. But apparently the people in charge of enforcing the law aren't even aware of it. One defense attorney tells the Register neither he, nor the judge, nor the attorney general's office knew about the law. A prosecutor thought it only applied if the victim was the abuser's direct student. “It’s not like you sit down and memorize a code book," the state's assistant attorney general says. Read the full investigation here. (Read more sexual abuse stories.)