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Is teenage sex a sex crime?  Readers voice concerns

A Column by the Editor
web posted February 13, 2008
COLUMN – I am being inundated with phone calls and emails about the two Strom Thurmond students caught having sex at school. Two teens having sex is not news, two teens having sex at school, okay that is a bit of a problem.

I have to say that the emails have run the gambit; some wanting criminal charges filed and others saying it is no big deal.

Just for the record, these parents that always think tearing up county roads, having sex at school, and any other assorted incidents involving their teens is not worthy of attention – you need a reality check. You are rewarding behavior that will increase the chances of your child facing far more serious charges in the future.

Not everyone finds your “little angel” quite as angelic as you do.

I had a long talk with Sheriff Adell Dobey on Tuesday regarding the incident at Strom Thurmond. It was obvious that his office was not aware of the incident until it appeared in the Wandering Minds and, as I suspected, no report was filed by the school.

I do have to question why the School Resource Officer was not notified of the incident.

I would like to take this time to address some of the laws sent in by readers and cover the position of the Sheriff in the matter. Everyone that sent in laws on criminal sexual conduct are off the mark. The Romeo clause says that if the two teens that have sex are within two years of age there is no crime. End of story.

Those that sent in the law on fortification are at least in the ballpark, in my personal opinion. However, I cannot remember the last time that was used regarding teens. That charge is usually seen in divorce cases I am told.

Two people said the teens should be charged with lewdness. The only law I could find on this is SC Code 16-15-90. I am not sure if the Romeo clause would override this statute because it took place in public. You would have to ask a lawyer to get an opinion on that.

Several suggested indecent exposure. According to SC Code of Laws 16-15-130 (A)(1) It is unlawful for a person to wilfully, maliciously, and indecently expose his person in a public place, on property of others, or to the view of any person on a street or highway.

Though that charge might be applicable, someone has to file the charge. No one, at this time, has stepped forward to make a complaint. According to Sheriff Dobey, it is a school matter until a report is filed by the school or a witness.
Then I received one email that made a very good point - Committing or attempting lewd act upon child under sixteen (SC: 16-15-140). The law states committing or attempting (a) lewd act upon child under sixteen is illegal. It is unlawful for a person over the age of fourteen years to wilfully and lewdly commit or attempt a lewd or lascivious act upon or with the body, or its parts, of a child under the age of sixteen years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires of the person or of the child.

However, the Romeo clause, I believe, could also be used to avert this charge.

The South Carolina State House has passed a bill to do away with the Romeo clause and it is currently in the state Senate for review. Is that what parents really want?

Face facts, teenagers have been having sex since there have been teenagers. Do we really want to have (more often than not) young males forced to register as sex offenders for not being able to refuse the enticement of young females for sex? And anyone who does not believe that young girls are not just as brazen, if not more so in some situations, than the males is not in touch with reality. It takes two to tango.

Should the two teens involved in this incident face severe penalties? Absolutely. Should they have to face felony charges and register as sex offenders, I don’ think so.

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