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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: December 12, 2012 01:19 PM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Passing the Trash
In the near future, I intend to reintroduce SB 1381, which will amend the Professional Educator Discipline Act to address the failure by school administrators to prevent hiring educators who have been investigated, dismissed or disciplined for abuse or sexual misconduct. Perpetrators often relocate and victimize new children because of this loophole. This tragedy is known colloquially as “passing the trash”.

Students who have been sexually abused by educators are more prevalent than most people realize. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 1 in 10 students is the target of educator sexual misconduct sometime during his or her academic career. At least 25% of school districts in the U.S. have dealt with a case of sexual abuse by a staff member in the past decade, while more than 3 million students currently in grades K-12 have endured sexual touching or assault, according to a report from the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. This epidemic is further magnified by the loophole that allows teachers to quietly resign from that school district and relocate without the new school district being alerted of the abuse, commonly referred to as "confidentiality agreements". Of abuse perpetrators who resigned, retired, weren’t rehired or were terminated for their misconduct, superintendents report that 16% went on to teach in another school – and these are just the cases of which superintendents are aware.

My legislation would end "passing the trash" by providing for more thorough employment background checks of applicants for school positions involving direct contact with children, in addition to the background check requirements found in Section 111. When applying for a position involving direct contact with children, an applicant must provide whether the applicant (1) has been the subject of an abuse or sexual misconduct investigation by any employer, state licensing agency, law enforcement agency or child protective services agency (unless the investigation resulted in a finding that the allegations are false), (2) has ever been disciplined, discharged or asked to resign while such allegations were pending or under investigation, and (3) has ever had a license suspended, surrendered or revoked while such allegations or investigation were pending. The prospective employer must contact the applicant's past and present employers to verify this information. Furthermore, my bill would prevent future "confidentiality agreements," which prevent school districts from disclosing whether the applicant was ever under investigation for abuse or sexual misconduct of a student.

These background checks would apply to traditional public schools, charter schools, cyber charter schools, private schools, nonpublic schools, intermediate units or area vo-tech schools in the Commonwealth. Previous co-sponsors included Senators PICCOLA, DINNIMAN, WASHINGTON, FARNESE, FONTANA, RAFFERTY, COSTA, WAUGH, BROWNE AND BOSCOLA. Please join me in this effort to end "passing the trash." If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 787-5970.

Introduced as SB46