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Equal Protection, Sex with Teachers, and Student-Athletes

Call me an old softie, but it always bugs me when different laws apply to different people. For instance, during the most recent student-teacher-sex-scandal I learned the following:

While the age of consent for a sexual relationship in Washington state is 16, it is criminal for a teacher or anyone else in a position of power to have sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18.

Now, despite some titillating ... um ... videos I might have seen, I can understand the arguments why you don't want teachers having sex with students. For instance, it's a big distraction from the school's goals, like not teaching math, not teaching reading, and planning periods. It's also a big distraction from the students' goals, like trying to have sex.

Nonetheless, if the students are otherwise old enough to consent, this is an argument for firing said teachers, or possibly even for not hiring them in the first place. It's not a particularly compelling argument for making them subject to a different age of consent than everyone else, which (if you think about it) means that a teacher could conceivably go to prison for the same actions that her non-teaching neighbor could perform quite legally.

Admittedly, as injustices go, this is a pretty small one, and anyway I'm sure if I thought about it I could find some way to blame it on the teachers' unions, who I imagine would be reluctant to endorse my "fire teachers who break the rules" program.

I was thinking about all this when I read an article about the "problem" of sports agents trying to influence college athletes:

In January, Illinois will become the 39th state to adopt the Uniform Athlete Agents Act, which calls for stiff penalties for anyone who passes himself off as a representative without a state license or for anyone who pays a college athlete with eligibility remaining. Since California, Michigan and Ohio already have their own non-UAAA laws, that leaves only eight states (Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont and Virginia) that don't regulate agents

The penalties for "sports-agenting without a license" I at least understand, being familiar with analogues in the taxi industry, the hairbraiding industry, the eyebrow-threading industry, the florist industry, the interior-design industry, the moving industry, and the healthcare industry.

The other is pretty impressive, though, for a couple of reasons.

First, it's a very selective law. I can legally give money to college students who aren't athletes. I can legally give money to college athletes whose eligibility to play sports has expired. I can legally give money to college-aged athletes who aren't college students. But the instant I give money to someone who's a college athlete with eligibility remaining, I'm a criminal.

More disturbingly, college eligibility is determined solely by the rules of the NCAA, which is (last time I checked) a private organization. Private organizations are, of course, welcome to punish their members, although usually not with prison time. Obviously, the NCAA has no jurisdiction to punish me, seeing as how I'm not a college student. So basically they've convinced 39 (and counting) state legislatures to pass laws ensuring that -- even though I have no association with their organization other than through the video game "NCAA Football 11" -- I can go to prison if I violate their privately-chosen rules.

Several sports-columnists seem to be applauding this state of affairs, although I'm sort of dreading the moment when all the other private organizations start realizing they can get their private rules written into law. The day when the American Mathematical Society's proscription on Proof by Contradiction becomes a felony will be an especially bad one for me.

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