Michigan legislators are moving to bar juvenile sexual offenders from attending the same school district as their victims.

The legislation from Republican State Representative Lana Theis of Brighton Township aims to protect underage victims of sex crimes when they are assaulted by a fellow student. The three-bill package is being touted as a victory for safeguarding the protection and healing of school-aged victims of sexual assault.

The legislation was prompted by a recent case involving a 16-year-old Brighton High School student, who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct charges against multiple victims as young as 12. Two of the underage victims and their families joined Theis for testimony before the House Law and Justice Committee in February. The 16-year-old was originally charged with 30 counts but pleaded guilty to six counts of criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 45 days in a juvenile detention home. The victims and families wanted the teen expelled but current law only addresses expulsions for sexual assaults committed on school grounds.

The three-bill package would require schools to permanently expel students who are convicted of criminal sexual conduct against another pupil enrolled in the same school district; prohibit an expelled student from attending another public school in Michigan unless they go through a reinstatement process; and, if a personal protection order is ordered for the victim of sexual assaults, the offender would be prohibited from entering the victim’s school.

Theis says the bills work to protect victims by expanding court orders, mandatory expulsion laws and protection orders for victims. “In our state, a child who has been sexually assaulted by a classmate is often left with the choice of going back to school with their rapist or having to change schools themselves. Requiring the victims to publicly beg for protection and carry this burden, which has recently taken place in Livingston County, is simply unacceptable. That must change.”

House Bills 5530, 5531 and 5532 advance to the Senate for its consideration. (JM)