Jeffrey Sears, 30, taught English full time and coached at Glen Burnie High School in Anne Arundel County.
Over two years, he had sexual relations with three female students who attended the school, including sex acts in his classroom with a 16-year-old, police said. During a single month last fall, he sent that girl more than 600 text messages, phone records showed.
He was sentenced in April to seven years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender.
Scott Spear, 47, worked in Montgomery County and was accused of having sex off campus with a girl from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. He taught full time at a nearby middle school, where he had met the girl, but worked only part time as a coach at the girl’s high school.
Prosecutors dropped the case against Spear, who denied having sex with the girl, within weeks of his February arrest because of that part-time status, they said.
“If this sounds absurd, it’s because it is. The law has a major flaw,” said Kristin Fleckenstein, spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel state’s attorney’s office.
Maryland law prohibits sexual contact between “full-time permanent” school employees who are in a “position of authority” over a minor student at the school at which they work. The law lists principals, vice principals, teachers and school counselors as the posts covered.
As a part-timer at the girl’s current school, Spear fell outside those lines.
The case is not unique. The same legal hurdle arose last fall in Anne Arundel in the case of a part-time coach at a Catholic high school and in 2010 in Carroll County with a part-time teacher at a public high school. Those teachers were taken to court — but only after investigators discovered evidence of crimes beyond the reported sexual liaisons.
“Bottom line: There is a gap in the law,” said Karla Smith, head of the division that prosecutes child sex-abuse cases in Montgomery.
Similar Virginia and District laws do not restrict bans to “permanent” school employees, according to prosecutors in those jurisdictions. They focus on the supervisory role of the adult and include acts by coaches.
Parents “don’t send their kids to school to have to worry about being hit on by coaches and teachers — whether they work 20 hours part time or 40 hours full time,” said David Daggett, former deputy state’s attorney in Carroll. “The impact is just as devastating in these situations. The law should be that if you’re employed by the school, it’s hands-off the students.”
Part time or full time
Spear was a full-time teacher at Julius West Middle School in Rockville when he was arrested in February. He had met and taught the girl in his case there, a police affidavit says.
But Spear was only a part-time coach at the high school the 16-year-old attended when the alleged sex took place in 2011 .