The Senate Education Committee Wednesday held an interim study on child sexual abuse in Oklahoma’s schools.
“Creating a safe environment in our schools is a top priority,” said Sen. Kyle D. Loveless (R-Oklahoma City), who requested the study. “As the father of two daughters, I want to know they are safe and learning while at school-that’s why I will continue to work on this issue.”
Much of the study focused on preventing abusers from moving from district to district.
“Passing the trash is the catalyst to the epidemic of educator sexual misconduct,” said Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.). “It creates a pool of mobile molesters in our schools that we won’t know about until someone reports them. It is a blight on the profession of teaching. All teachers are forced to work under a cloud of suspicion and the entire school environment is hindered to provide the essentials children need to thrive in their learning experience.”
Brad Clark, General Counsel for the State School Board, commended the legislature on the successes of new laws, specifically Senate Bill 711, and applauded school districts for their diligence in reporting suspected abuse.
Authored by Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman) and Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing), SB 711 was signed into law in 2015. The bill, amended by Loveless, opened up lines of communication between school districts and the state Board of Education. This communication has helped the Board investigate and take action on more than twenty teaching certificates of abusive teachers.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister also spoke to the efforts being made to curb abuse in schools saying, “our children and their safety are paramount. We are thankful for Senate Bill 711 and the hard work of Sen. Loveless and others.”
Stacy McNeiland from the CARE Center also testified before the committee citing a report that 90 percent of child abuse comes from someone the child knows, trust and loves. McNeiland also cited a report that suicide rates are higher for people who are sexually abused.