Teacher Hiring Oversight Bill Passes

The House unanimously passed legislation Friday to make it more difficult for those who have sexually abused children to get jobs in Virginia's schools.

Republican Delegate Rob Bell's bill would require school superintendents to check child abuse registries in Virginia and other states where applicants have lived in the past five years. Those with founded complaints would not be hired.

The bill also would make it a crime to lie on a school application about past child abuse complaints.

Child Protective Services would be required to notify a school division about employees who have sexually abused children. Teachers who take advantage of their students and have exhausted all appeals would be fired and their licenses could be revoked.

A nationwide Associated Press investigation published in October found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct. Experts who track sexual abuse say those cases are representative of a much deeper problem because of underreporting.

The AP investigation found what education officials commonly call "passing the trash," when districts allow a teacher to quietly leave a school, or fail to report problems to state authorities, or fail to check with state authorities before hiring a teacher, among other glitches.

Virginia was one of at least 15 states considering stronger oversight and tougher punishment for educators who abuse their students.

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