Hannah Dreier

SACRAMENTO, Calif.: A 41-year-old high school teacher exchanges a flood of text messages with his student, then leaves his wife and three children to date her. The couple then goes on national TV, saying their relationship didn’t become physical until she turned 18.

In California, there’s nothing illegal about what they did.

Now, a lawmaker is hoping to change that with a bill rolled out Tuesday that would make such relationships a felony, even if the student is 18, and strip school employees of their pensions and retiree health care if they are convicted.

To prevent teachers from “grooming” students for relationships when they become adults, the bill would also criminalize seductive communication, including sexual text messages.

“Our hope is that that will be a pretty strong and painful deterrent and will cause someone to think twice before starting an inappropriate, unethical relationship with a student,” said Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, the bill’s sponsor.

If the bill is successful, California would join 23 other states in banning student-teacher affairs regardless of age, according to Olsen. These include Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Connecticut and Kansas. In some states, such affairs are a felony.

Olsen is from Modesto, a city about 75 miles south of Sacramento where teacher James Hooker and student Jordan Powers struck up their relationship at Enochs High School. Powers has dropped out, but Hooker’s 17-year-old daughter still attends.

The announcement of their relationship made national headlines. Powers’ mother, Tammie, confronted the couple on Dr. Phil and accused Hooker of brainwashing her daughter. Web commenters have also poured on criticism.

The couple maintains that, while they met when Jordan was 14, their relationship did not become physical until she was of age, meaning that it is permissible under current laws. California’s age of consent is 18.