A Kentucky House committee advanced a bill Tuesday to bolster disclosure requirements meant to reveal past misconduct allegations when teachers seek jobs in other school districts.
Republican Rep. James Tipton said his bill seeks to strike a balance between providing transparency to protect children while safeguarding the due process rights of educators. The bill won bipartisan support in clearing the House Education Committee, sending the proposal to the full House.
Tipton, the committee chairman, said he introduced the measure in response to a series of stories last year by the Lexington Herald-Leader that focused on teacher sexual misconduct.
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The bill aims to make sure that Kentucky school administrators are aware when a teacher applying for a job in their district was previously accused of sexual misconduct.
The measure would prevent school districts from entering into nondisclosure agreements related to teacher misconduct involving a student, including sexual misconduct.
Applicants for jobs would have to disclose whether they were the subject of any allegation or investigation within the past 12 months, as well as any resignation or termination related to “abusive conduct” while employed by a school district.
When considering a job applicant, districts would have to contact each district that previously employed the person for a reference check. Previous employers would have to disclose any allegation, investigation or disciplinary action related to abusive conduct while the applicant worked for the district.
“We wanted a requirement that these things are followed up with,” Tipton said during the committee hearing. “That they’re not brushed aside.”
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The bill seeks to ensure that once an investigation begins, it is completed, he said. Also under House Bill 288, past investigations into teacher misconduct would remain in a teacher’s file.
“If evidence is found that that teacher did something inappropriate, it needs to be recorded,” Tipton said. “For the sake of the teachers who might have been falsely accused, that investigation needs to be completed if they are exonerated.”
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If the bill wins eventual House passage, it would go to the Senate for consideration.
In its series last year, the Lexington Herald-Leader obtained 194 cases of teachers who voluntarily surrendered or had their license revoked or suspended from 2016 to 2021. Of those, 118 — 61% — lost their license due to sexual misconduct. The overwhelmingly majority of those cases involved male teachers and teenage girls, the newspaper reported.