JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) __ School districts would have to inform the state within 24 hours when a teacher is accused of sexual misconduct involving a student and the state would oversee investigations of such claims under a measure the state Senate unanimously approved Thursday.
The bill, which next goes to the House, would also require districts that fire teachers in verified abuse cases to disclose the information to other districts that might be considering hiring such teachers. And teachers would be forbidden from communicating over the Internet with current or former students in ways that aren’t accessible to district administrators and the students’ parents.
“This bill provides a solution to the sexual misconduct problem in our schools and it ensures our families that their schools will be safer,” Sen. Jane Cunningham, who introduced the measure, said before Thursday’s vote. The legislation is backed by the state teachers union and the Missouri School Boards’ Association, which represents districts.
Missouri law forbids sexual contact between teachers and students on school grounds, regardless of whether the student older than the age of consent. The Senate bill focuses on whether such abuse is reported to the state and, if it is found to have happened, to other schools where the teacher could work. Cunningham introduced the bill after a 2007 Associated Press investigation found that 87 licensed Missouri teachers lost their credentials between 2001 and 2005 because of sexual misconduct involving students. Teachers licenses are taken away by the State
Board of Education, and the process takes a long time. The AP found that some teachers found to have engaged in sexual misconduct with
students landed teaching jobs elsewhere in the state because the district that fired them didn’t pass on the information to the teachers’ new employers.
Brent Ghan, a spokesman for the Missouri School Boards’ Association, said some districts didn’t pass along the information out of fear that they would be sued by a teacher who was terminated by his or her new district based on that information.
Copyright The Associated Press