Education

Bill Aimed at Stopping Teacher Predators Signed Into Law

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Assemblyman Jay Webber Credits: Courtesy of Assemblyman Jay Webber
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Governor Phil Murphy Credits: Courtesy of the office of the Governor
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TRENTON, NJ – Assemblyman Jay Webber’s landmark legislation stopping child predators in schools from easily changing jobs was signed into law April 11 by Governor Phil Murphy.

“This is a huge victory for our children, their parents, and our state,” said Webber (R-Morris) in a statement. “This landmark legislation creates safer schools and prioritizes the protection of our students. Allowing former employers to share information with prospective employers about teachers who sexually assault students is plain common sense. No longer will these predators be able to continue their horrific behavior simply by changing jobs. Children will now have the protection they deserve.”

Webber’s bill (S414/A3381) requires school districts to share information about sexual misconduct and child abuse investigations unless the claims were proven to be false or unsubstantiated, and grant school districts legal immunity. It also bans the separation agreements that force districts to destroy or withhold information about those probes, according to Webber’s statement.

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“Ensuring our children are safe when they go to school every day is our number one priority,” said Governor Murphy in a statement. “By requiring public, charter, nonpublic schools and contracted service providers to perform a detailed investigation of prior employment histories of applicants who are applying for jobs entailing regular contact with students, this common-sense legislation will begin to fill a serious gap in our hiring system. Parents should have the peace of mind that their children attend school in an environment in which they can safely learn, grow, thrive and succeed.”

Webber authored and championed this legislation after learning the story of Jason Fennes, a former Montville recreation coach and William Mason Elementary School teacher whose sexual assault of five female students spurred his suspension and resignation, according to Webber’s statement.

Fennes was then hired by a private school that confirmed his employment, but Montville was bound by a separation agreement, preventing them from sharing his past abuse. Subsequently, he sexually assaulted a first-grade girl less than a year after his hire for which he is now serving a 14-year state prison sentence, according to Webber’s statement.

Senator Joe Pennacchio sponsored the Senate bill (S414). The Senate and Assembly unanimously approved the legislation in February.

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