In 1997, Iowa lawmakers passed legislation requiring mandatory prison time for any educator found guilty of sexually abusing a student. The law was passed after a female teacher found guilty of having sex with a male student avoided time behind bars.

A recent analysis by the Des Moines Register, however, suggests that law is not being followed in some cases.

[T]he Register’s review of such cases over the past five years revealed at least seven instances in which teachers served no prison time after being convicted of sex crimes involving children attending their schools. Some judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys acknowledged the mistakes, which they said resulted from misunderstandings involving the sentencing requirements for such cases.  

We’ve written before about the apparent epidemic of teachers having sex with students, and my first thought was that perhaps these cases involved what many people might consider “soft” sexual abuse: The 22-year-old teacher who develops feelings for her 17-year-old student.

That doesn’t appear to be the case, at least not entirely.

Some of the victims in the Hawkeye State cases are described as 15 or younger, 14 or younger, and even 13 or younger. One man accused of molesting children in his home initially had 50 counts of abuse against him; 48 of those counts were dropped, and he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation by a school employee. His two-year prison sentence was then waived and he was given probation.

It’s unclear how or why the law was being ignored. One defense attorney involved in two of the cases told the Register it was simply a mistake on the part of himself, the prosecutor, and the judge. “None of us knew about it, frankly.”

That’s certainly possible, but one hopes the revelation prompts a state inquiry. One can question the wisdom of mandatory sentencing, but something has gone awry when a statute is simply being forgotten (or ignored).

Jon Miltimore is the senior editor of Intellectual Takeout. Follow him on Facebook.

[Image Credit: The Des Moines Register]