That can make understanding the law a little tricky, Decker said.The definition of a "child" isn't even the same throughout Indiana code, Decker points out. In Indiana, a section of the law makes it illegal for authority figures, such as teachers, to have sex with any minor younger than 18, because they hold positions of trust and influence.
Would sex involving a 17-year-old who is dating a 21-year-old, for example, be illegal?
With the modernization of sex crime laws, "it's not criminal for teenagers who are very close in age to have sex together," said Indiana State University associate professor Lisa Decker, who teaches in the criminology and criminal justice department.
The conversations on the phone were dated from November 26 to December 11. "There is absolutely no excuse for an adult — especially a high school teacher — to continue sexually explicit conversations with a 15-year-old long after his real age is revealed," said Winter Haven's Police Chief Charlie Bird.
"The vulnerable age of this victim and the fact that this woman took advantage of him for her own personal needs is inexcusable." Dunlap is charged with transmitting material harmful to minor and using a two-way communication device to commit a felony, according to the police report.
Raising the age of consent would defy national trends of decriminalizing consensual sex, Decker said.
In Indiana, it's considered child molestation to have sex with a child younger than 14, who cannot consent to sex.
After confirming the messages, detectives confronted Dunlap at her home on December 17.
When asked why the two were still conversing, the teacher responded by saying that the teen was "the only person that she can talk to and the only one who understands her." Dunlap then gave officers consent to search the phones in her possession, which were reportedly "extremely vulgar" and contained "sexually explicit language," according to the police report.
The jig was later up for the teen once his mother discovered the conversations and informed Dunlap of the teen's real age.
But this wouldn't be the last time the two would exchange messages.
With a petition in the works, Fields also hopes to rally legislative support.