A former Alabama teacher who was convicted of having sexual intercourse with two teenage male students is trying to get her case overturned by claiming a state law prohibiting sex with students is “unconstitutional” — and it looks like the argument has worked before.
Charli Jones Parker, 31, was a teacher at Pickens Academy when she had sex with the 16-year-old boys, including over a dozen times with one of them from October 2014 to March 2016. She pleaded not guilty, but was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. Now, she’s appealing her conviction, citing an August court ruling in which a judge determined the law violated an equal protection clause affording teachers the same treatment in court as other professionals. Her attorney argued that Parker’s conviction should be appealed on the same grounds.
The law, created in 2010, prohibits school employees from having sex with students under the age of 19, regardless of where the student attends school. However, the state of Alabama allows other adults who have consensual sex with teenagers over 16 years old, the age of consent, to avoid criminal prosecution.
“Alabama law does not make it a crime for members of other occupations to have consensual sex with 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds, even when there is a position of trust or authority,” Parker’s attorney Virginia Buck said. “School employees have been unfairly singled out and are being sent to prison for something that, at most, might cost people their job or their license in any other profession.
“Certainly, anyone who has sexual contact with someone without their consent, or who is under the age of consent, should be criminally punished,” she continued. “But to send someone to prison for a consensual sexual relationship with someone over the age of consent solely because they are a school employee treats school employees differently than everyone else.”
In court filings, Parker’s lawyer provided a hypothetical example in which a school janitor violates the law by having sex with a 16-year-old girl. However, “a 65-year-old doctor, minister, therapist, or attorney is not subject to criminal liability in Alabama for having consensual sex with a 16-year-old.”
If Parker’s conviction is successfully overturned, the ruling may possibly benefit her husband James Franklin Parker III, 33, who has pleaded guilty to sexual contact with former student. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June and has not yet appealed his case.