The Legislature on Friday overrode Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, that lifts the age cap for students who are sexually assaulted by school officials.

L.D. 1540 removes the 17-or-under age limit on the victim of the crimes of unlawful sexual contact, unlawful sexual touching and gross sexual assault when the victim is a student at an elementary, secondary or special education school and the person accused of the action is someone at the school who has authority over the student.

The bill was proposed after former Waterville Senior High School Principal Don Reiter was charged with official oppression, a Class E misdemeanor, for allegedly propositioning an 18-year-old student. Kennebec County District Attorney Meaghan Maloney said in November she would have charged him with attempted gross sexual assault if the student had been under 18. Reiter was dismissed from his post at the high school.

“I am grateful to my colleagues in both the Senate and House for their support of this bill,” Cyrway said in a news release Friday. “We have now closed a loophole in Maine law that left students vulnerable. My first priority with this legislation is to protect our students. High school students who are 18 years of age deserve to be protected just as students under the age of 18 are.”

Under current law, it is illegal for an educator to have sexual contact with a student under age 18, while the general age of sexual consent in Maine is 16. However, according to current Maine law, a person may be enrolled in high school until age 20. In many cases, children with special needs remain in school for the maximum amount of time.

The charge against Reiter is still pending.

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