Gov. Chris Sununu signed both HB 1240 and HB 705 into law Monday. HB 1240, nicknamed by proponents as the “Howie Leung loophole,” was created after Primo “Howie” Leung was arrested in 2019 on rape charges in Massachusetts — which later led to accusations that he was having sexual relations with students above the age of consent and possibly grooming or attempting to groom other girls for relations while a teacher in between 2006 and 2019. The bill alters and updates language to state law that previous allowed people in authority, like teachers, to have relations with students and others without facing charges or losing their jobs.
The bill’s primary sponsor was state Rep. Katherine Prudhomme O’Brien, R-Derry, a rape survivor herself, with work performed by state Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, to get it approved in both houses. Other provisions, including the updated educator Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct, approved in 2018, are expected to help alleviate educator-student sexual abuse and misconduct issues in the state.
HB 705 eliminates the statue of limitations that sexual assault and incest victims can seek civil claims against their predators. The law also allows for victims of misdemeanor sexual assault to have statutory rights and strengthens support and resources for assault victims on college campuses.
Both bills also funded more services for assault and abuse victims in New Hampshire.
“We know that, unfortunately, there are people out there who will use a power disparity to try and take advantage of others,” said Sununu said. “This is something that even happens in schools. It is important that school be a place of trust and responsibility. If someone violates the trust and authority we place in them and takes advantage of a child, we are now able to act appropriately.”
Ana Goble of Concord, a former SAU 8 student who raised concerns about Leung back in 2014 and was suspended for gossiping, was on hand for the signing.
“I just want to thank Gov. Sununu, Sen. Bradley, and everyone else who made this bill possible,” Goble said. “It ensures the safety of my classmates — and that’s all we ever wanted, for my classmates to be safe, no matter how old they are.”
Amanda Grady Sexton, the director of Public Affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, who is also a Concord city councilor and was involved in shepherding the law through to passage, thanked Sununu and lawmakers who worked so hard to bring the changes to law — especially during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The bills signed today represent the most sweeping collective improvements to laws regarding child abuse and domestic and sexual assault in recent history,” Grady Sexton said. “This legislation could not be timelier. Expanding vital protections, services, and support, especially amidst this global pandemic, will improve the lives of survivors, who are under incredible pressure and danger due to the fallout of COVID-19.”
State Sens. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, and Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, who were also involved in other bills that were amended as a part of HB 1240, also commended the bill’s signing.
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