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 one-quarter 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.
These numbers stand alone in their devastation to students, parents and schools. Perhaps just as alarming, however, is an often overlooked fact: many teachers punished for sexual abuse wind up right back in the classroom at another school. 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. All told, only 62% of sexual abuse cases result in the revocation of teacher certification. Instead of promoting accountability and a healthy learning environment for students, school administrators and union officials allow predators to relocate to another school.
This phenomenon of educators and school employees reasonably suspected of student sexual abuse finding employment at a new school – known as “passing the trash” – is preventable. It occurs when an educator or school employee is allowed to quietly leave a school and move to a new district, without the new district being alerted to the past misconduct. There are concrete steps that can be taken to curtail this problem. In Pennsylvania, a bill has been introduced by Senator Anthony Williams to require school administrators to disclose allegations of sexual abuse for any employee given a reference, and to prohibit confidentiality agreements between a school and an alleged abuser.
The Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation Act (Senate Bill 1381), or S.E.S.A.M.E. Act, will help put a stop to the practice of passing the trash in Pennsylvania and, more importantly, will help protect the millions of children vulnerable to educator abuse. We ask you to sign our petition to let Governor Corbett know you support this measure, and that you are confident he will, too.
For more information on how to stop schools from passing the trash, visit: http://www.sesamenet.org/index.html
Passing the trash exacerbates an already pervasive and devastating problem. 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 K-12 academic career. The Associated Press reports that between 2001 and 2005, more than 1,800 educators were punished for sexual misconduct involving a student. And these are only the cases that are reported – many cases are settled behind closed doors.
Many of these teachers resign, retire, are not offered a renewed contract, or are terminated by their district. However, superintendents report that, among such cases, at least 16 percent of these teachers go on to teach in another district. A teacher deemed unfit to teach our children in one part of the state is somehow now teaching in another. Our children deserve better.
The S.E.S.A.M.E. Act takes concrete steps to combat passing the trash. The legislation:
• Requires anyone applying for a job at a school – public or private – to provide a written statement disclosing whether s/he has been the subject of a child abuse or sexual misconduct investigation by any employer, and whether s/he has ever resigned or separated from a position amid pending allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct
• Requires the school considering the applicant to contact each of the applicant’s former employers and inquire whether the applicant has been investigated for child abuse or sexual misconduct, and whether the applicant resigned or separated from a position amid pending allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct
• Requires all contacted former employers to furnish the requested information, along with any relevant files, within 20 days
• Prohibits schools from entering into confidentiality agreements with alleged abusers, and from entering into any other agreements that limit the ability of a school to disclose charges of misconduct or discipline perpetrators
• Prohibits teachers from forfeiting their teaching certification in lieu of facing discipline
By putting your weight behind this bill alongside Senator Williams and the bill’s co-sponsors, including Majority Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Senator Jeffrey Piccola, you will be doing what’s right for Pennsylvania’s children. I hope we can count on your support.