"Pass the trash" bill designed to crackdown on sexual misconduct by teachers

10 months 4 weeks 14 hours ago Monday, February 18 2019 Feb 18, 2019 Monday, February 18, 2019 11:00:00 PM CST February 18, 2019 in News
By: Eric Graves, KOMU 8 Reporter

JEFFERSON CITY - A House bill would make sure teachers who have a record of sexual misconduct cannot jump from school to school.

Jessica Seitz, with Missouri KidsFirst, said a 2010 study found that teachers with a history of sexual misconduct with minors made it through an average of three different school districts before the behavior was brought to the attention of administrators.

Seitz said the phenomena is known as "passing the trash" and it happens in Missouri and throughout the country.

“One of the reasons this is common is someone who is going to sexually abuse children is going to work in a place where they have contact with children and they're allowed to get in close relationships," Seitz said. "Schools unfortunately provide that kind of environment."

Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark is sponsoring the bill and said the situation is all too familiar.

Miller was on the school board at School of the Osage, which found out a teacher was having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

“You trust in these teachers, you want them to be able to teach your students and treat your students as the gift that they are, and, when they don’t, it’s a betrayal of trust,” Miller said.

School of the Osage isn't the only school to have a case of sexual misconduct by a teacher.

Teneil Stevenson is charged with enticement of a minor over Snapchat beginning at Fulton Middle School during the spring of 2018.

That fall, he got a new job as a football coach at Southern Boone County High School, while he was still communicating with the minor.

On Aug. 31, the minor reported the enticement and a short while later, Stevenson was placed on administrative leave and a month later pleaded not guilty to child enticement and resigned from his position at Southern Boone County.

If the "pass the trash" bill is passed, it would mean school districts would have full access to records from a teacher's past employment and would be able to see any history of sexual misconduct.

Miller said school boards could get the records through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The bill would require additional training for all new school board members and an annual training for school board members.

Training would also be provided for students in the sixth grade and up.

“One thing we know is critical is all school professionals or all youth-serving professionals who work with kids start recognizing the signs of inappropriate behavior," Seitz said.

Miller said he has not run into any opposition yet, but some people have expressed concerns about how the bill would impact the privacy of teachers.

Another issue is whether parents want to teach their own child on the subject and if they could pull their child out of the training. Miller is all for it.

“It’s the parents, it’s the adults who need to educate their children," he said. "Schools should be a secondary option to it, so, you bet, if a parent wants to teach their child this, we’ll help them."

Miller and Seitz agree the bill's primary purpose is protecting students from the "very bad problems," Miller said. 

"It can go from just being a life lesson to a life ender," Miller said. "It is absolutely devastating and we need to do everything we can to educate and put a stop to it.”

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