The Supreme Court of Arkansas has ruled that people aged 18 or older have a constitutional right to engage in consensual sex, striking down the state's law banning sexual relationships between teacher and student.
The court sided with 38-year-old David Paschal, an Elkins High School history and psychology teacher who admitted having a five-month consensual sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student.
"Regardless of how we feel about Paschal's conduct, which could correctly referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts," Fox News quoted Chief Justice Jim Hannah as saying.
Attorneys for the state argued that the law protects high school students from sexual advances of teachers who are in positions of authority. But the high court found the law was unconstitutional because it criminalized sexual conduct between consenting adults.
In a dissent, Justice Robert Brown said that the majority's opinion will cause disruption in high schools because there will be nothing to prevent teachers from having sex with students who are 18 or older.
"This will cause significant disruption in our high schools and have a deleterious impact on education in general and the teacher-student dynamic in particular," Brown said.
Paschal, who is serving a 30-year sentence, will have his convictions reversed and dismissed. His attorney, Casey Copeland, said his client was "vindicated by the Supreme Court."
"I think that this case does not necessarily say a teacher can do that and keep their job.
"I think the loss of job and loss of teacher's license might be appropriate for that, but it's not appropriate to put someone in jail for 30 years," Copeland said.