An 18-year-old Sebastian River High School senior is reportedly being charged with a felony and expelled from high school as a result of a consensual relationship with another female student. Kaitlyn Hunt started dating a 15-year-old student from her high school basketball team when she herself was 17. Kaitlyn’s father, Steven R. Hunt Jr., claims his daughter was kicked off the basketball team because the coach feared a same-sex relationship would bring unwanted drama. Steven Hunt explained, “The girl’s mother found out about the relationship, and, as the track coach and Criminal Justice teacher told me, the girl’s mother said that there’s no way her daughter could be gay. The mother then took reigns and is now attempting to place felony charges upon my own daughter.” According to her family, Kate’s girlfriend was a freshman student enrolled in courses with upperclassmen and a fellow player on the varsity basketball team with Kaitlyn. Although Kaitlyn was three years older than her girlfriend, they were friends in the same social circle.
After Kaitlyn’s 18th birthday, her girlfriend’s parents sent the police to the Hunt residence, where she was arrested. Kaitlyn’s mother told The Examiner, “They are out to destroy my daughter, because they feel like she ‘made’ their daughter gay. They see being gay as wrong and they blame my daughter. Of course, I see it 100% differently. I don’t see or label these girls as gay. They are teenagers in high school experimenting with their sexuality — with mutual consent. And even if their daughter is gay, who cares? She is still their daughter.” Kaitlyn’s father wrote about the arrest, “My daughter was ripped out of her mother’s arms, hysterical. The police finally told us she was being arrested on probable cause.”
NYDaily News reports that Kaitlyn has been charged with two felony counts of, “lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 – 16 years of age.” She has reportedly been offered a plea bargain of house arrest. Under these conditions, Hunt would be sentenced to two years house arrest and allowed to attend school or work only during that time. She would also endure one year of probation and attend sex offender counseling. Hunt’s mother, Kelley Smith, has until next Friday to accept what she calls the “outrageous plea offer” or take the case to trial.
If convicted, Hunt could face up to 15 years in prison and be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.
Kaitlyn’s family took her story public on May 17 on a “Free Kate” Facebook page. Her mother wrote this personal message:
“Anyone who knows me, even a little, knows what kind of person I am. Anyone who knows my daughter Kate, knows how wonderful she is. Kate is an 18 year old senior about to graduate from SRHS. She has an exemplary record at school and home. She has always been a wonderful student, respected and well liked. She has cheered on the varsity cheer team all throughout high school, shes sung in chorus and was voted most school spirited. She has never been in trouble, ever, she truly is the model student and child. At the beginning of this school year, she started dating a fellow student, who happened to be another female. This girl also played varsity sports, was in the IB program, so she was in classes with upperclassman. There was an age difference between my daughter and the other girl, of 3 years, my daughter was older, however you would have thought it was the opposite by just looking at the girls. My daughter is tiny, looks very young, and the other girl looks much older and is much taller, either way there was a 3 year age gap. They were both students in the same high school, it was a mutual consenting relationship on both parts. This was unusual for Kate, she has always dated boys, but being the kind of mother I am, I didn’t want to make it a big deal. I talked to her about it, and figured it was just a social thing, times have changed and a lot of kids are experimenting, so I didn’t make much of it.”
Their family’s “Free Kate” Facebook page has more than 19,000 members.
In addition to the Facebook page, her family has also launched a website to share Kate’s story.
In response to those claiming the Hunt family is expecting special treatment because Kaitlyn is in a same-sex relationship, the Facebook page stated:
“The law needs to change, not only to protect Kate, but to protect the millions of teenagers, boys and girls, straight and gay, whose lives are regularly ruined because parents disapprove of their children’s sexual choices. We want justice for all 18-year-old high school seniors who have undergone criminal prosecution for exercising poor judgement in their dating life. Such students are not predators. They’re just kids.”
Under Florida’s 2007 “Romeo and Juliet” Law, an “offender” can petition the court to remove the need to register as a sex offender if the “victim in the case” is between 14 and 17 years old, “a willing participant in the sexual activity and no more than four years younger than the offender.” This law does not make it legal to have sexual relations with minors, but prevents the accused from being held as a sex offender. Historically the law has never applied in cases dealing with same-sex relationships.