HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania is another step closer to making sure educators who are suspected of sexually abusing students won’t be allowed to quietly resign in one district and continue their inappropriate behavior in another.
Members of Pennsylvania’s House Education Committee this week approved a bill that would prohibit school district officials from cutting deals with potentially abusive teachers. The secret deals – commonly known as “passing the trash” – have allowed numerous educators to quietly resign their positions in return for a letter of recommendation that is later used to gain employment in another district.
The practice allows districts to get rid of problem employees without going through an expensive legal process with the local teachers union.
The committee-approved legislation prohibits schools from making any agreement that would keep confidential investigations or information about suspected abuse or sexual misconduct by a school employee, the Times Leader reports.
Another version of the legislation passed the Senate and the House committee last year, but did not receive a full House vote.
“Under the proposal that passed the House committee Wednesday, job applicants would have to authorize past employers to disclose the information. They also would have to state in writing whether they had been the subject of an investigation of abuse or sexual misconduct and whether they had been disciplined or fired amid such allegations,” the news site reports.
The new bill, like the previous version, would also protect schools from criminal or civil liability when they disclose important information to prospective employers.
“We think it’s a commonsense approach to protecting children and provides the proper legal protection that school districts need to pass on important information about employees as they move from one system to another,” Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association told the Times Leader.
The state teachers union – the Pennsylvania State Education Association – was initially concerned about how the Senate bill would impact employee rights, but likely realized outright opposition would be a bad idea. The PSEA is neutral on the legislation, the news site reports.
Terri Miller, an advocate for victims through her group SESAME – Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct & Exploitation – has repeatedly highlighted how the broken education system has allowed pedophile teachers to slip through the cracks.
She worked with state Sen. Anthony Williams to craft the Senate legislation.
“One of the most evil practices that happens in our schools when a teacher sexually offends a child is that the system insulates itself and totally disregards the trauma and the victimization of the child,” Miller told the Times Leader.
“They end up protecting a perpetrator and their system rather than providing the much-needed services and emergency response that a victim deserves.”
Pennsylvania House leaders are expected to revisit the legislation when they reconvene at the end of March, according to the Times Leader.