HARRISBURG, Pa. – Educator sexual abuse is a very real and prevalent problem facing students across the country. Statistics show that nearly one in ten children will be victimized by some form of sexual misconduct by a school employee by their senior year. That statistic equals approximately 4.5 million children.
With a number that high, one would think that our society would do everything in its power, and take whatever precautions are necessary, to ensure that our children can be safe in one of the places they should feel most secure – their school.
To halt this abuse, people need to understand the contributing factors of this epidemic. A key contributor to the high incidence of this abuse is what is referred to as “passing the trash.” It occurs when a teacher accused of sexually abusing a student is allowed to quietly resign from his/her current position and subsequently move to another school district without the new employer being alerted to the allegations of misconduct. This practice endangers countless students every year throughout the country.
How does this happen? Some school administrators prefer to avoid the negative publicity of having a molester on staff, and the prohibitive legal costs of firing suspected abusers. They put children at great risk by remaining silent about known sexual predators. Their lack of loyalty to their students has created a pool of mobile molesters in education.
One organization determined to put an end to this practice is S.E.S.A.M.E., which stands for Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation.
S.E.S.A.M.E has assisted state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams in crafting SB46, the Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation bill, which has been passed unanimously by the Pennsylvania Senate and the House Education Committee. All that is needed for this important bill to become law is a single vote by the House of Representatives.
The legislation would put a stop to “passing the trash” – at least in Pennsylvania – in a variety of ways. It would require school administrators to disclose allegations of sexual abuse against a teacher to potential employers. It would prohibit confidentiality agreements between schools and abusers. In addition, the bill will help identify grooming behaviors commonly used by perpetrators in schools.
At a March 19 rally organized by S.E.S.A.M.E. at the Pennsylvania capitol, I had the opportunity to speak as a survivor of educator sexual abuse, alongside Sen. Williams. He offered strong words to implore the House of Representatives to put SB46 up for its final vote so it can be sent to the governor for consideration and his signature to make it law. Terri Miller, S.E.S.A.M.E.’s president, also shared an impassioned voice at the rally, stressing that every day the S.E.S.A.M.E bill is not in place, more children continue to be at risk.
I am proud to represent S.E.S.A.M.E and survivors everywhere. Our goal is to model our bill in every state to end passing the trash. It will be a great day when parents have the assurance that their children are being taught by educators who have been properly vetted and deemed fit to teach and protect our children. Now is the time to say no more passing the trash. Pass the S.E.S.A.M.E bill.
For a more complete look into this important bill, please click here: