FRANKFORT – (TNS) A House Bill making it more difficult for Kentucky teachers who have been accused of prior sexual misconduct to move between school districts passed a Senate committee Thursday, with several lawmakers saying the legislation was much needed in the state.
The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to pass House Bill 288. It will now move to the full Senate.
The legislation would ban nondisclosure agreements about teacher misconduct involving minors, including sexual misconduct.
The bill would also increase disclosure requirements about past misconduct. Applicants for jobs must disclose if they have been the subject of an investigation in the prior 12 months. It would also require that investigations into school employee sexual misconduct be completed.
Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, the bill’s sponsor, said Thursday the bill was in response to a Lexington Herald-Leader series of stories on teacher sexual misconduct and the impact across the state. Tipton is the chairman of the House Education Committee.
He said the issue addressed by the bill was one he wished Kentucky lawmakers did not have to talk about.
But, he said, “We have a reality.”
“The goal of House Bill 288 is to protect our students, to protect our children,“ Tipton said. He said the bill also protects the due process rights of teachers.
A Senate committee substitute says the bill would also apply to all non-faculty coaches and non-faculty assistant coaches. State Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Lexington, made the suggestion, Tipton said.
In a September series, the Herald-Leader obtained 194 cases of teachers who voluntarily surrendered or had their license revoked or suspended from 2016 to 2021. Of those, 118 — 61% — lost their license due to sexual misconduct. The overwhelming majority of those cases involved male teachers and teenage girls.
School districts must check with all previous schools a teacher has been employed at before hiring an individual, the bill says. School districts would not be sued for releasing information about a teachers’ prior misconduct, according to the bill.
Investigations of sexual allegations against teachers would have to be completed and the results would remain in the teacher’s permanent record.
In addition, the bill would also require teachers to receive training regarding appropriate boundaries and conduct between teachers and students every five years.
The Kentucky Department of Education has until 2024 to develop the training.
Currently, Kentucky requires teachers to have training on sexual abuse but that training is not specific to misconduct between school staff and students.
At least 12 states and Washington D.C. have strengthened screening tools so teachers who have been accused of misconduct in one district can’t move to another district.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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