New legislation from a local lawmaker that would further protect young victims of sex-based crimes got a hearing today in Lansing.

State Representative Lana Theis of Brighton introduced the bill package earlier this month in response to a recent case where a 16-year-old Brighton Township teen pleaded guilty to 6 felonies, including 1st degree criminal sexual conduct, involving multiple victims. Both the teen and his victims were students in the Brighton Area Schools district and it was unclear whether the district would allow the perpetrator back into the school following his sentencing, which only mandated he serve 45 days in a youth center. One of the mothers of the victims testified to the House Law and Justice Committee today and said the proposed legislation would help close a loophole that could have exposed her daughter and other victims to seeing their rapist daily. "We can't depend on our personal protection orders to protect our daughters. They have to be renewed annually and its up to the discretion of the judge to approve that, to renew that. With the help of the district and the school board in having some other discretionary measures to assist us in that protection is ultimately what we're looking for."

The district eventually said the teen was not returning. But under current law, schools can only expel a student who commits criminal sexual conduct in a school building or on school grounds. The Brighton teen’s assaults all occurred on private property. Representative Theis told the Michigan House Law and Justice Committee today that the package of bills would help districts deal with that loophole. "Their issue in all this is that with the language of the law as it currently exists, they don't believe they have the authority. The language expressly speaks to what happens if it happens on school grounds. It doesn't give them any authority outside of that and that's the point of one of these bills is to expand it."

The proposed legislation would require schools to expel students who are convicted of criminal sexual conduct against any student enrolled in the same school district. It also prohibits offenders from enrolling in the victim’s school, and prohibits any offender, regardless of age, from entering the school building of a student who has a personal protection order against them.

The committee could vote on the legislation as early as next week, although Vice-Chair Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township, said he would like to see more discussion and potential clarifications before advancing the measures to the floor. (JK)