Students upset about teachers getting light sentences for sex with students send bill to Tallahasee

Bill would increase penalties

Four seniors at Armwood High School are fed up with teachers like Debra Lafave, who was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a student.
 
Her punishment – house arrest and probation, but no jail time – was too lenient in their opinion.
 
Then there's former Newsome High School soccer coach Ronald Lewis, also convicted of having a sexual relationship with a student without getting jail time.
 
"Getting probation in most cases is not going to cut it," Senior Malikia Hunter said.
 
"We're trying to make sure that these teachers get punished," Senior Taylor Brooks said.
 
Senior Elyse Chinowth said the teachers’ arrests are disturbing to students.
 
"I plan on being a mother one day and I would hate to have to worry about my child being at a school and worried about he or she being preyed up on by teachers who should be our protectors," she said.
 
These students are pushing for a bill that would increase penalties for teachers caught having sexual relationships with students. 
 
"All we’re doing is raising the charges so they can't plead down into misdemeanors and only get house arrest and probation," Brooks said.
 
The students were inspired by Hillsborough County's "There Ought To Be a Bill" campaign and tweaked a bill from 2009. That's when four other students came up with the bill after being upset about Lafave's punishment. All of them attended Greco Middle School where she taught.
 
"They were even more upset that not only were those acts committed, but they felt in their mind that it had gone relatively unpunished," teacher Tony Pirotta said.
 
With some hard work and dedication from these four students, harsher punishments could soon be on the way.
 
"I feel very good about it. I think it's going to happen," Chinowth said.
 
The students will travel to Tallahassee on Tuesday to listen to some last minute debates on the bill. The senate is expected to have their final vote Wednesday.
 
If the bill passes, Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign it. It would take effect Oct. 1.
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