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New Hampshire Sexual Abuse Law Seeks to Protect Students

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The state of New Hampshire has issued its first charges against a teacher under House Bill 1240, also known as the Howie Leung Loophole Law. In effect since January 2021, the new law makes it a felony for authority figures at schools to engage in sexual activity with students, even when students are of legal age (18 years or older).

Previously, state law allowed teenagers 16 and older to consent to sexual contact if they were not being coerced.

What Is the Howie Leung Loophole Law (HB 1240)?

Per Seacoast Media Group, the Howie Leung Loophole Law “concentrates on the influence authority figures have on relationships with students instead of the student’s age, since 18-year-olds are considered legal adults in most forums.”

The law was inspired by the case of Primo “Howie” Leung, who was seen kissing a student of adult age in a car in Concord but was never charged with sexual assault because engaging in sexual or romantic contact with students did not violate New Hampshire law at the time. Leung was later charged with multiple felonies for his alleged criminal conduct with students at a camp in nearby Newton, Massachusetts.

Sexual Relationships Between Teachers and Students Are Inherently Abusive

According to the lawmakers, “sexual relationships between teachers or other school officials of authority and students are ‘inherently abusive,’” because the power imbalance and potential for exploitation takes away the student’s ability to consent.

Students of all ages should be safe from sexual exploitation by those they trust, and adults should always be held accountable when they manipulate and exploit children in their care.

While engaging in sexual activity with a student has always been grounds for termination, the unprofessional and exploitative conduct is now against New Hampshire state law, as well.

Who Was Charged with Sexual Assault?

A New Hampshire drama coach and special education teacher was the first person to be charged under the Howie Leung Loophole Law. She stands accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old student, allegedly engaging in intercourse with and kissing the student between April 6 and May 13, 2021.

The teacher has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail while she awaits trial. She was serving as a drama coach at the time of the alleged abuse, which falls under HB 1240, “when the actor is an employee, contractor, or volunteer at a primary or secondary educational institution and the victim is a student and up to 10 months after the student's graduation or departure.”

Advocates against domestic and sexual violence support the new law, and the teacher’s case is its first time in action.

Our team at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. will monitor how the case unfolds.

Perpetrators and Institutions Can Be Held Accountable for Abuse

In the meantime, we want to remind victims and their families that perpetrators can be held civilly and criminally liable for abusing students, and the institutions that enable them can face consequences, as well.

If your child has been harmed in school, we urge you to come forward when you are ready. Our experienced team is ready to fight for you and help you stand up to the injustices you and your family have suffered.

We have over 100 years of legal experience and offer personalized, compassionate service. Our clients are always our priority, and we want to help you get the justice you deserve.

Tell us what happened at (603) 288-1403 or send us a message online – we believe you and we can help.