Taking advantage of another opportunity to give the false and misleading perception that Missouri schools are full of teachers who are molesting children, Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, issued the following news release after the House passed the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act Thursday.
While there was nothing wrong with the idea that Missouri laws needed to be tightened to make sure these teachers who have brought shame to the profession are not allowed to move from school to school, what is buried in the bill, which I have been writing about since Mrs. Cunningham first proposed the bill when she was in the House, is an opening of the door to government intrusion in the lives of teachers who have done nothing but bring honor to their profession.
It is amazing how the same politicians who rail against big government are the first to resort to it when it is something they want:
Today, Senate Bill 54 , sponsored by Senator Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, overwhelmingly passed in the Missouri House and has been sent to the governor for his signature. When signed by the governor, SB 54 would create the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act,” preventing sexual abuse of children in our schools.
“After five years of fighting, I’m proud to see this legislation finally sent to the governor’s desk — children in our state are now one big step closer to having solid protection from sexual predators in their schools,” Senator Cunningham said. “This legislation is vital to protect our children from sexual misconduct committed by school employees. Aside from mandatory extensive background checks, my bill will make it possible for school officials to be aware of sexual misconduct exhibited by potential hires and their employees when making staffing decisions.”
Amy Hestir, for whom the legislation is named, is a Missouri woman who was continually molested and assaulted by her junior high school teacher while she was in school. The teacher was employed by several school districts before winning a “Teacher of the Year” award before retiring. The practice of sexually abusive teachers moving across the state is so common that the Missouri Department of Education has termed the practice, “Passing the Trash.”
“Under Missouri’s current employment law, school districts are hesitant to share information regarding former employees for fear of lawsuits,” Senator Cunningham said. “As a result, teachers who engage in sexual abuse or misconduct with students have the ability to transfer from one school district to another, with the new school district unaware of the employee’s prior record, as in the case of the teacher who assaulted Ms. Hestir.”
In Senator Cunningham’s bill, school districts in Missouri would be allowed to discuss information about their employees with other school districts. Also, school districts would be liable for damages if they dismiss an employee or allow an employee to resign for reasons of sexual misconduct, and then fail to disclose those reasons in a reference request from another school district.
Representative Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, shepherded the legislation through the Missouri House.
“I’m proud to see a bipartisan coalition come together to pass this important piece of legislation,” Rep. Kelly said. “It is wonderful that partisan politics can be put aside to accomplish such a vital piece of legislation for the protection of children.”
Senator Cunningham’s legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate on April 7. According to the Missouri Constitution, the governor has until July 14 to act on legislation. If approved by the governor, SB 54 would go into effect on Aug. 28, 2011.