Bill increases penalty for teacher sexual misconduct

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Lawyers, lobbyists and advocacy groups help shape policy at the Capitol.

But some high school students traveled up to Tallahassee to let lawmakers know that young people can do so as well.

The Florida Senate gave a round of applause for four Armwood High School students and their teacher.

They traveled up from Seffner to lobby for a bill they helped craft.

Sponsored by Senator Stargel of Lakeland, the bill strengthens the penalties for teachers or other authority figures who commit a sexual offense on a minor.

The House version of the bill has been dubbed the "Stop Harassing Underage Teens Act."

This proposal comes in the wake of Lakeland teacher Jennifer Fichter being accused of having sex with multiple of her students.

Proponents of the bill hope it helps keep kids safe.

"It's an amazing feeling because we as students obviously see that there's a problem and if we see there's a problem as students in a public school, you know it must mean something that we're trying to get this done," said Elyse Chinowth, one of the Armwood students.

"I, as a policymaker, feel like if the kids are coming to us going 'we need a law that says that we don't want our teachers hitting on us that way and that we need to make it a penalty so they get the message.' I'm 100 percent supporting that," said Sen. Kelli Stargel, sponsor of the bill.

For years, students in this program, known as "Ought to be a law," have tried to get this legislation passed and this year it may come true.

The bill is expected to go up for a final vote in the Senate Wednesday. ​​


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