The Ohio House has approved legislation that will close a loophole in disciplinary investigation procedures for teachers and school employees.
House Bill (HB) 403 sponsored by Representatives Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula) and Adam C. Miller (D-Columbus) aims to close a loophole enabling a teacher or school employee who retires under threat of disciplinary investigation or termination to avoid further investigation. Under this bill school districts would report these teachers to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) even if they retire.
The bill would require school districts to report to ODE any teacher or school employee who resigns under threat of disciplinary investigation or termination.
“This legislation closes a loophole to ensure our students are safe when they go to school. Current law would allow a guilty party back in the classroom because no record of their alleged misconduct may be found. This bill works to see an investigation is properly conducted, and that appropriate documentation, with due process, is completed so that our students are protected,” Fowler Arthur said.
Current law only requires the school to report such a case if a teacher resigns, but not if they are to retire. At present, an educator who retires while under investigation for misconduct is able to find a new position at another school and effectively skip an accountability process that would address the misconduct.
According to the Department of Justice, “With no criminal conviction or disciplinary record, predators can obtain new jobs and move on to other victims. On average, a teacher offender will pass through three different districts before being stopped, and one offender can have as many as 73 victims in his or her lifetime.”
Just last year, Rocky River High School, in Cleveland, had five teachers resign and one retire while under an investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior involving pictures and text messages about a student. According to Miller, HB 403 would mandate that the school district would treat all six involved teachers the same and report them to the ODE.
A proponent of the legislation, the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers said that Ohioans need to work together to ensure the safety and security of children everywhere by keeping educators accountable.
“As educators are accountable for the learning and development of the children in their care, they must also be held accountable for their behavior towards them. As the law is currently written, an educator who may have violated the trust and boundaries of their students would essentially have a “clean slate” should they retire in one district and seek employment in another,” Caitlin Bentley Director of Statewide Programming for Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers said.
“House Bill 403 is an opportunity to eliminate a loophole that could allow educators to harm more children after a complaint or report has been made. While we do not currently have data to indicate how often educators who retire during misconduct investigations transition to a new school in Ohio, allowing even one educator to do so, particularly in cases involving sexual misconduct, could result in more children harmed by sexual abuse in Ohio,” Emily Gemar spokesperson for Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence said.
The bill passed out of the Ohio House unopposed, with 91 votes in favor, according to the state legislature’s website.
– – –
Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Sarah Fowler Arthur” by Ohio State Representative Sarah Fowler Arthur. Photo “Adam Miller” by Adam Miller. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.