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PA bill could help keep child sex abusers out of school jobs

If we have learned anything from the multitude of child sex abuse scandals in Pennsylvania schools, it is to never trust a teacher or other staff member without verification. Too many teachers and get moved around for sexual misconduct when they should be reported to authorities. Almost without fail they go on to commit sexual abuse against other children.

In the world of education, there is a name for this practice: “Passing the trash.” When a school employee is accused of sexual abuse or misconduct, the school may not want the negative publicity or liability. Therefore, they allow teacher or staff member to “resign” and they may even be talked into giving that person a recommendation so that they can find a job elsewhere. Thankfully, Pennsylvania legislators are working hard to make sure that passing the trash can no longer happen here.

The Pennsylvania legislature has been showing strong bipartisan support for a bill that many expect to become law in the not-too-distant future. If passed, it would require individuals applying for employment with a school to disclose any part of their work history that includes reports or allegations of sexual misconduct. More importantly (because applicants could lie), schools must disclose this information about former employees if another educational institution makes an inquiry about a job applicant.

Too often, confidentiality agreements prevent school officials from sharing this information even though silence comes with obvious risks. If passed, the law could not retroactively nullify existing confidentiality agreements, but it could prevent future agreements.

The goals of this bill are so obvious and necessary that many Pennsylvanians may be surprised to learn that such a law is not already on the books. Only two other states are believed to have enacted pass-the-trash laws, and Pennsylvania seems poised to become the third.

Trash should never be passed – it should be thrown away. Hopefully, state legislators will not allow any delay in passing this bill and making sure that it is enacted before the next school year.

Source: Philly.com, "Pa. bill targets sex-abuse disclosure rules for schools," Ben Finley, April 4, 2014

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