The Senate Education Committee approved legislation Monday to better protect schools from unknowingly hiring sexual predators. Sen. Kyle Loveless says Senate Bill 301 will close a loophole that is allowing school employees to move from one school district to another after committing sexual crimes against minors.
“Under current law, we have a problem because school districts are given the option whether or not to report inappropriate relationships or sexual misconduct to the State School Board of Education,” said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. “What happens too many times is that a rape or molestation occurs, an investigation takes place and the victim’s parents and the school board agree that if the perpetrator simply resigns, no charges will be filed. The perpetrator then moves to a different school district, which isn’t allowed to ask why the individual resigned from their previous job. The predator gets hired and is free to commit the same crimes until he or she is caught again.”
Currently, the State Board of Education has the authority to not issue or revoke the teaching certificate of anyone convicted of certain crimes such as sexual abuse or exploitation with a minor. The district attorney must notify the applicable school district superintendent and the State Board of Education if charges are filed against a school employee for such crimes and if there is a conviction.
Current law does not provide any authority to the State School Board to address cases where no charges are filed against a school employee who commits a sexual crime against a student.
SB 301 would require local school district boards of education, rather than the DA, to notify the State Board of Education within 30 days of an employee being fired or resigning while under investigation for violating the law. The measure would also allow the State Board of Education to hire someone to investigate such cases.
“I understand parents of a victim not wanting to traumatize their child further by pressing charges and the incident becoming public, but school districts should have the right to report these incidents to the State Board of Education to do their own investigation and decide if an individual should be able to continue working in the state school system,” said Loveless. “We’re failing our school districts if we don’t close this loophole and keep schools from hiring sexual predators because they’re unaware of their backgrounds. Our children and schools deserve better.”
SB 301 will next be considered by the full Senate.