The problem of sexual abuse in school settings is an endemic one, not only in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but across the entire country. In the last decade alone, there have been dozens of teachers, principals, coaches, etc., who have been criminally prosecuted for sexually abusing a student. Part of the problem is the ease with which teachers and educators can move around, to different schools. A teacher who has a history of sexually abusive behavior can quietly move to another, unsuspecting school. This is known as passing the trash.
This happens when a school wants to avoid an investigation and instead lays the teacher off, or the teacher simply quits. A confidentiality agreement is made, and the first school avoids an investigation (criminal or internal). Down the road, the school may even go so far as to give a glowing recommendation when the teacher tries to get a teaching job at another school.
In October, the Pennsylvania legislature passed Senate Bill 46 which could make it more difficult for this type of scenario to occur. If signed into law, SB 46 would require more extensive background checks for individuals seeking employment at educational institutions for minors. Under SB 46, an individual seeking employment would be required to provide information specific to any prior sexual abuse/assault conduct. In addition, individuals would have to sign a release allowing prior employers (schools) to reveal any previous reports of sexual misconduct. The law would apply to all schools in Pennsylvania, including private schools, public schools, charter schools, etc. Governor Corbett is expected to sign SB 46 into law.
Almost two years ago, in January 2013, the bill was introduced by Senator Anthony Williams of the 8th District of PA. The 8th District includes parts of south Philadelphia, west Philadelphia and Delaware County. Passage of the bill comes on the heels of multiple reports of teachers and coaches in Pennsylvania sexually abusing their students.
One report referenced by Senator Williams during the legislative history of SB 46 was conducted by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. According to the foundation, roughly 1 in 4 school districts in the country have dealt with a case of sexual abuse by a school employee in the last 10 years, and more than 3 million young students (K-12) have experienced sexual touching or sexual assault.
At least 25 percent of school districts in the nation 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.
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