Bill requiring disclosure of educators’ sex-abuse history languishing, advocates say

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Legislation to require district-to-district notification of any investigation of a teacher for sexual misconduct moved forward this week, but advocates complain the bill could have been made law months ago.

“I think it’s just awful that they’re playing a political game with a bill that is designed to protect children,” said Terri Miller, board president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation (SESAME). “This bill could have been signed into law already by this time.”

State Sen. Anthony H. Williams introduced bill SB46 more than a year ago to require potential teachers to disclose any past allegations or investigations for sexual abuse or misconduct, closing what is known as the “pass the trash” loophole.

“Whether or not the person has been convicted or not, they are required to communicate that information with other school districts,” said Miller, who supported Williams’ bill and organized a rally Wednesday to draw attention to the bill.

Williams’ bill was previously voted unanimously through the state Senate and through the state House Education Committee. Now, a new version of the same bill, HB2063,  introduced by state Rep. David Maloney earlier this year, passed favorably out of the House Education Committee on Wednesday, the same day as SESAME’s rally.

“Why would the house education committee pass our bill unanimously back on Oct. 22 [2013] and then table it? We don’t understand,” Miller said. ”Why are they opting for a bill that was basically cut and pasted from our bill?”

Williams said he didn’t know why a bill that was already being processed was duplicated by a new bill.

“Other than politics and personality, I really don’t know,” he said. “I think they have to answer for that.”

Miller said she doesn’t oppose the new bill. She just doesn’t understand why a second bill was necessary, she said.

“Children are in jeopardy as long as either one of these bills is sitting without becoming law,” she said.

The language of both bills SB46 and HB2063 state that anyone applying to work for a public or private school must provide employment history and disclose whether any charges of abuse or sexual misconduct that have been filed against them. It also prohibits any school from making disciplinary records private.

Current law has allowed some teachers accused of misconduct to resign their position before sexual abuse charges become a matter of record, in what is known as the “pass the trash” loophole.

The bill also extends the definition of sexual misconduct to include what Miller described as “grooming behaviors,” including a romantic invitation, dating soliciting dates, engaging in sexualized or romantic dialogue and making sexually suggestive comments.

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