Theis bills to protect underage victims of sex crimes go to governor for signature

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The state Senate today unanimously approved Rep. Lana Theis’ three-bill to protect underage victims of sex crimes on school property. The legislation comes in response to the recent Livingston County case in which a 16-year-old was convicted of criminal sexual charges against multiple victims as young as 12. The underage perpetrator sought to return to school upon release, despite several victims being fellow students. This prompted action by Theis, a fellow Brighton resident.

“A child who has been sexually assaulted by a classmate in Michigan is often left with the choice of going back to school with their rapist or having to change schools themselves,” Theis said. “This is not just a loophole that allows this to happen; it is a gaping hole in our law that would allow such an injustice and I am happy we are changing this.”

Theis’ plan requires permanent expulsion of students who are convicted of criminal sexual conduct against another pupil enrolled in the same school district, and prohibits an expelled student from attending another public school in Michigan unless they go through a reinstatement process. In addition, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Sylvia Santana, of Detroit, requires that if a personal protection order is ordered for the victim of sexual assaults, the offender would be prohibited from entering the victim’s school.

Currently, Michigan schools are only required to expel a student who commits a sex crime on school grounds.

“These bills are needed to ensure we protect young victims of criminal sexual conduct, just as we do for adults,” said Theis, a member of the House Law and Justice Committee. “We had several of the young victims and their families go before House and Senate committees to tell us how they faced the possibility of being in the same school building, classroom and even bus route with a manipulative predator. As a mother of high school-age daughter, it’s unbelievable to me that it was even considered.”

House Bills 5530, 5531 and 5532 advance to the governor for his consideration.

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The Livingston Post is the only locally owned, all-digital information and opinion site in Livingston County, Mich. It was launched by award-winning journalists who were laid off from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2009.

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