WATERVILLE, Maine — Following publicity involving a Waterville High School principal accused of asking a student for sex, a Republican state lawmaker is hoping to submit a bill he says will strengthen penalties in such cases.

State Sen. Scott Cyrway of Benton says his bill was brought forward in response to constituent concerns about existing law covering instances of school officials seeking sex with students over 18. It is a crime if the student is a minor, and under current law, if the student is just shy of turning 18, the offending school official could face up to five years in jail.

But Cyrway says penalties also should apply in cases in which the student is of age.

“I am not judging on Waterville’s situation,” he says. “I think, that, you know, the basic thing is we don’t want someone in an administrative position to take advantage of a student.”

Cyrway says his bill would close a loophole, and recognize the importance of power and influence that a school official has over a student, even an adult student.

Elizabeth Ward Saxl, executive director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, says she will withhold judgment on whether to support the legislation until an actual bill is drafted that she can review. But, she says, it’s an issue lawmakers should explore.

“Depending on the relationship between the individual, the two individuals involved, there is a difficulty in determining true consent because of the power differential,” she says.

Saxl says Maine law does provide established criminal penalties for asking another adult for sex when the relationship involves one person in a position of power over another. It would apply, for example, to probation officers and their parolees, or to a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed social worker who approaches a client or patient.

“I think it is worth having a look at and I think it is really a question of appraising how great that power differential is and whether or not it warrants criminal penalties,” she says.

To be considered in the session of the Legislature that convenes next month, at least six of the 10 elected leaders of the Legislature will have to support consideration of the bill when they meet on Thursday.