In an effort to stop inappropriate relationships between school employees and students, Sen. Ron Sharp has filed legislation to require professional development training on the issue. Under Senate Bill 899, the training would begin with the 2018-2019 school year and would need to be completed at least once per semester.
“While the protection and safety of students is the highest priority for most Oklahoma public school personnel, there are those few that need to be periodically reminded of the confidence and responsibility that parents, the school district and state have entrusted in them,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “This reminder each semester of the legal and long-term consequences of inappropriate behavior with students will hopefully be enough to deter any temptation.”
The program would include information about the potential penalties associated with being convicted, whether upon a verdict or plea of guilty or upon a plea of nolo contendere, or receiving a suspended sentence or any probationary term for a crime or an attempt to commit a crime of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation against a minor. The training could be provided in person or online.
“This legislation would in no way eliminate school employees’ due process rights,” said Sharp. "I just believe when someone is being tempted and considering illegal behavior that being reminded every few months that such actions are a felony and they’ll be deemed a sex offender will change their perception and bring them to their senses.”
The State Department of Education (SDE) would be responsible for developing the training materials (DVD, online or booklets) and providing them to school districts.
Each school district board of education would submit a report to the SDE by June 30, 2019, and by the end of June thereafter verifying that all district employees had completed the training. Districts would also need to verify that teachers had received the training before being reissued their certified teaching certificates.
By November 1, 2018, the Commission of Educational Quality and Accountability would need to adopt rules requiring coursework or training on appropriate behavior between students and school employees as a requisite for program accreditation. The SDE, beginning November 1, 2020, would be required to verify before issuing teacher certification licenses that students have received this training.
The legislative session will begin on Monday, February 5.