Across the country, state after state has passed bipartisan legislation to keep students safe from predators in the classroom. Will California follow their lead?
When it comes to sexual abuse and harassment, even one incident is unacceptable. Sadly, in California, dozens of examples show it can still be a problem in schools. Too often, perpetrators slip away, moving from job to job and school district to school district, never having to answer for their behavior.
SB 709, the California Sexual Abuse-Free Education (SAFE) Act, by Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) would take on this cycle by ensuring greater scrutiny in school hiring practices to ensure candidates for employment have no prior history of misconduct.
At its core, the bill would require proper reference checks for employees applying for jobs that involve direct contact and supervision of children during the majority of the school day. It outlines requirements for applicants, prospective employers, and previous employers. Applicant information and records of allegations, investigations, or findings of sexual misconduct with a child would be disclosed unless determined to be false.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to abuse,” said Morrell. “Parents should have confidence that when they send their children to school, they will be safe from predators and others that would do them harm. It is a broken system that allows too many to slip through the cracks and needs to be fixed.”
Seven other states have passed legislation similar to the SAFE Act (Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Nevada and New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, Missouri) in response to a number of high-profile cases involving school employees who have acted inappropriately, taking advantage of their students. An additional two states are currently considering these requirements (Massachusetts and Maryland).
SB 709 is supported by the nonprofit Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.), the leading national voice for the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment of students by teachers and other school staff.
The bill will be considered by the Senate Education Committee on April 10.