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House Bill 114 — Abuse of school employees

House Bill 114 — Abuse of school employees

by
Parrish Miller
February 13, 2023

Bill Description: House Bill 106 would define and criminalize "abuse" of a public school employee.

Rating: -2

Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?

Idaho law allows misdemeanor charges to be brought against anyone who "upbraids, insults or abuses any teacher of the public schools, in the presence and hearing of a pupil thereof."

House Bill 106 would amend Section 18-916, Idaho Code, to expand this criminalization to include any abuse of a "public school employee while the employee is acting within the course and scope of the employee's duties."

It would further expand the scope of the crime by saying, "Abuse means to willfully and maliciously threaten, harass, coerce, or intimidate. The term ‘abuse’ shall not be construed to include mere criticism or other constitutionally protected speech or activity. Rather, the term ‘abuse’ refers to conduct that would cause a reasonable person substantial emotional distress or fear of physical injury."

Attempting to apply the “reasonable person” standard to “emotional distress” is problematic. The line between "mere criticism" and words that inflict "emotional distress" is not an obvious one, as “emotional distress” is subjectively determined. 

Additionally, this bill would significantly expand the scope of this section of Idaho code, which currently only forbids insulting or abusing teachers when a heated discussion is within "the presence and hearing of a pupil." Under the expansion proposed here, no student need be present, and administrators are likewise given special protection from hearing words that they may believe inflict emotional distress. 

(-1)

Does it violate the principle of equal protection under the law? Examples include laws which discriminate or differentiate based on age, gender, or religion or which apply laws, regulations, rules, or penalties differently based on such characteristics. Conversely, does it restore or protect the principle of equal protection under the law? 

House Bill 106 carves out a special crime for causing a public school employee emotional distress. If severe harassment should constitute a violation of someone's rights, the law should apply equally to all people, not unequally applied based on one’s employer.

(-1)

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