By Elizabeth Daley
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Reuters) - A high school rowing coach was found guilty on Thursday of sexual assault for her consensual relationship with an 18-year-old pupil under a Pennsylvania law prohibiting sex between teachers and students of any age.
Megan Batykefer, 31, who coached at North Allegheny Senior High School in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wexford, could face up to seven years behind bars at her sentencing on Nov. 10 at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, according to court documents.
The age of consent for sex is 16 in Pennsylvania, but a 2012 law allows felony charges of institutional sexual assault to be filed against teachers who have sex with students of any age.
After his 18th birthday in April 2014, the boy told Batykefer, who had been coaching him since 2012, about his feelings for her and they began a sexual relationship, according to the criminal complaint.
The boy "realized that it would've been inappropriate for him to be involved romantically with her when he was less than 18 years of age so he waited to let her know how he felt," the complaint said.
Both Batykefer and the student, who is not identified in the complaint, said their sexual relationship was consensual and took place before and after he graduated in June 2014.
Batykefer's lawyer argued at the trial that the charges should be thrown out because the Pennsylvania law was overly broad and unconstitutional.
Judge Edward Borkowski convicted her after ruling that "there is no constitutional protection for school employees to engage in sexual relations with their students... While the victim acknowledges that it was a consensual sexual relationship, the purpose of the statute is to protect students from such undue and coercive influence."
Batykefer's lawyer declined to comment.
Several other states, including Texas and New Jersey, have similar laws against sex between teachers and students of any age.
In Washington state, choir teacher Matthew Hirschfelder challenged the state's law prohibiting sex between teachers and 18-year-old students and lost in 2010 when the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the age of the student was irrelevant.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Mohammad Zargham)