Predator teachers keep getting jobs — Bill aims to change that
Accused of inappropriately touching students, a first-grade teacher in Montville was allowed to resign and find a teaching job in a neighboring county — where he later admitted to assaulting yet another student in 2010 and 2011.
Eventually charged in September, a teacher in Elizabeth retired years after an alleged string of sexual encounters with a student, only to soon work in two other New Jersey districts as a substitute teacher.
Stories like these — and there are plenty — have prompted an effort by New Jersey lawmakers to prevent schools from "passing the trash" and knowingly allowing predatory teachers to share a classroom with students in another school.
“When substantiated allegations of abuse have been made against a teacher in one school, they should not be able to move to another school under the radar," said Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris).
His legislation, approved by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday, bans schools or districts from entering into agreements with teachers that essentially sweep child abuse or sexual misconduct allegations under the rug in exchange for a resignation or termination that damages no one's reputation.
Schools — public and private — would be required to contact current and former employers of any applicant and request information specifically related to child abuse and sexual misconduct allegations. The applicant would also be required to provide a written statement on the same matters.
"Hopefully from a practical standpoint, it will keep any potential predators from even applying for jobs in our school districts and private schools and charter schools," said Jonathan Pushman, legislative advocate for the New Jersey School Boards Association, speaking in favor of the bill.
According to Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys fall victim to sexual abuse before the age of 18. Eighty percent of these cases are never reported to authorities.
"The vast majority of our teachers are outstanding leaders who give so much to build a brighter future for our children," said PCA-NJ Executive Director Rush Russell. "This bill would stop the practice that allows a tiny percentage of our state school employees who want to take advantage of their position of power and influence."
The legislation, which is scheduled for a vote by the full Senate on Thursday, includes penalties for applicants who willfully give false information or fail to disclose the information requested.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.