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Pennacchio/Bucco/Ruiz Legislation to Protect Students from Chronically Abusive Teachers Heads to Governor's Desk

NJ State Senate Credits: NJ State Senate

Seeks to End Process of “Passing the Trash”

TRENTON – Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26), Senator Anthony Bucco (R-25), and Senate Education Committee Chair M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) to help flag teachers with allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct during a school's hiring process has received final legislative approval and heads to Governor Murphy for his signature.

"It's been a long road, but I'm glad to see our effort to protect students from chronically abusive teachers is finally heading to the Governor's desk," said Pennacchio. "Parents need to trust that schools are able to screen out teachers with histories of sexual abuse before they ever get into a new classroom. That’s what our bill will ensure.”

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The legislation, S-414, seeks to end the practice of "passing the trash," a process through which teachers under investigation or subject to allegations of abusive behavior or sexual misconduct move from one school to the next to avoid being held accountable for their actions.

Oftentimes, the new employer is never made aware of the circumstances under which a teacher has left a prior position.

"We've learned that predatory teachers follow a pattern a behavior, jumping from school to school to avoid accountability when new allegations of student abuse arise," said Bucco. "Our bipartisan effort to increase the screening of a teacher's employment history prior to hiring will prevent those bad teachers from victimizing more children. I urge Governor Murphy to act quickly to sign this important student protection into law."

The extent of the problem was highlighted in a recent investigation by NJ Advance Media.

The legislation requires school districts, charter schools, nonpublic schools, and contracted service providers to review the employment history of prospective employees who will have regular contact with students to ascertain allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct.

"The issues uncovered by the investigatory work showing that teachers who pose a threat to school children have evaded disqualification from teaching positions are extremely disturbing," added Ruiz. "We should be doing everything within our power to ensure the safety and wellbeing of school children and making sure that teachers with histories of abuse or are under investigation for abusive actions are not allowed to avoid accountability by jumping from one school system to another. Our classrooms should be sanctuaries of learning where each and every child is safe from harm."

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