As education in the United States is controlled at the state and local level, so too is the protection of our children in those schools a state and local issue. Accordingly, state Rep. David Maloney (R-Berks), who is also a former school board member, has introduced legislation that will require public and private schools in Pennsylvania and their independent contractors to conduct a thorough employment history review prior to offering employment to any applicant for a position involving direct contact with children.
“When a school employee abuses a student or engages in sexual misconduct with a student, or is alleged to have done so, current law is insufficient to prevent that employee from quietly resigning and moving on to another school, where the abusive conduct may continue,” Maloney said. “I personally witnessed these types of resignations, commonly known as ‘passing the trash,’ when I served as a school director, and I strongly objected to the procedures that allowed these resignations to occur.”
What many people do not know is that the Pennsylvania School Code does not currently require school entities to conduct a thorough employment history check of job applicants, nor does it require school entities to provide a comprehensive response to a background inquiry from another school entity. Maloney’s proposal would correct this oversight in the law.
Identical to Senate Bill 46, which passed the Senate unanimously in June 2013, Maloney’s bill will require all school entities and independent contractors of school entities to conduct detailed employment history reviews prior to offering employment to any applicant for a position involving direct contact with children.
“Under my legislation, each applicant must provide detailed background information in order to be considered, and previous employers must provide a school entity with all requested background information regarding a former employee,” Maloney said.
Maloney’s bill will provide for immunity from criminal and civil liability for employers, school entities, school administrators and independent contractors that disclose the requested background information, unless the information or records provided were knowingly false.
Perhaps most importantly, the legislation will prohibit a school entity or independent contractor from entering into an agreement to maintain the confidentiality of findings or allegations of abuse against a current or former staff member. The bill will apply to all public schools, private schools, nonpublic schools, intermediate units and area vocational-technical schools in the Commonwealth.
“This new proposal to require school entities and independent contractors to conduct extensive pre-employment background screening complements House Bill 434, which I also authored,” Maloney said. “House Bill 434 abolishes the separate standards and procedures that exist for school employees accused of abusing a student and ensures that school employees are subject to the same investigations and are held to the same standards as parents, child care workers and other perpetrators of child abuse. Together, these bills will strengthen our protection of our children.”