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Passing the Trash: Absence of State Laws Allows for Continued Sexual Abuse of K–12 Students by School Employees

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Abstract and Figures

“Passing the trash,” enabling teachers who sexually abuse students to pursue another job with no record of their sexual misconduct, is common practice for K–12 school district administrators who fear legal liability and tarnished reputations. The “Prohibition on Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse” provision in the United States Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 aims to eliminate passing the trash. This study explores states’ progress toward developing and implementing relevant law and policy to comply with the provision. Researchers collected data from representatives of state departments of education, asking whether representatives were aware of the provision and what progress their state had made toward complying with it. Overall, researchers found that just four states had fully complied; several others were in the process of creating relevant policy and legislation and a few began the process in response to researchers’ queries. However, the overwhelming majority of states—39—had no plans to create relevant legislation or policy, either because they were unaware of the provision or because they believed, erroneously, that existing laws fulfilled the ESSA mandate. Passing the trash is clearly an unacceptable practice, yet research suggests it still occurs, and state-level laws and policies to prevent it are slow to emerge. The lack of knowledge or awareness exhibited by many state representatives suggests a need to educate policymakers and education leaders about what aiding and abetting sexual offenders consists of, what consequences it can have for vulnerable students, and what provisions states can enact to prohibit it.
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Journal of Child Sexual Abuse
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Passing the Trash: Absence of State Laws Allows
for Continued Sexual Abuse of K–12 Students by
School Employees
Billie-Jo Grant, Stephanie Wilkerson & Molly Henschel
To cite this article: Billie-Jo Grant, Stephanie Wilkerson & Molly Henschel (2018): Passing the
Trash: Absence of State Laws Allows for Continued Sexual Abuse of K–12 Students by School
Employees, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, DOI: 10.1080/10538712.2018.1483460
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2018.1483460
Published online: 12 Jun 2018.
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Passing the Trash: Absence of State Laws Allows for
Continued Sexual Abuse of K12 Students by School
Employees
Billie-Jo Grant
a
, Stephanie Wilkerson
b
, and Molly Henschel
b
a
Department of Statistics, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA;
b
Magnolia
Consulting, LLC, Charlottesville, VA, USA
ABSTRACT
Passing the trash,enabling teachers who sexually abuse
students to pursue another job with no record of their sexual
misconduct, is common practice for K12 school district
administrators who fear legal liability and tarnished reputa-
tions. The Prohibition on Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse
provision in the United States Every Student Succeeds Act
(ESSA) of 2015 aims to eliminate passing the trash. This study
explores statesprogress toward developing and implementing
relevant law and policy to comply with the provision.
Researchers collected data from representatives of state
departments of education, asking whether representatives
were aware of the provision and what progress their state
had made toward complying with it. Overall, researchers
found that just four states had fully complied; several others
were in the process of creating relevant policy and legislation
and a few began the process in response to researchers
queries. However, the overwhelming majority of states39
had no plans to create relevant legislation or policy, either
because they were unaware of the provision or because they
believed, erroneously, that existing laws fulfilled the ESSA
mandate. Passing the trash is clearly an unacceptable practice,
yet research suggests it still occurs, and state-level laws and
policies to prevent it are slow to emerge. The lack of knowl-
edge or awareness exhibited by many state representatives
suggests a need to educate policymakers and education lea-
ders about what aiding and abetting sexual offenders consists
of, what consequences it can have for vulnerable students, and
what provisions states can enact to prohibit it.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 16 November 2017
Revised 30 March 2018
Accepted 5 May 2018
KEYWORDS
Sexual misconduct; sexual
abuse; school personnel;
student safety; education
policy
In the United States, 1 in 10 K12 students (approximately 4.8 million) will
experience sexual abuse or misconduct by school personnel before they
graduate from high school (US DOE, 2004). In 2015, the media, which tracks
only the cases reported to criminal authorities, reported 498 teachers arrested
for sex crimes against children (Google Alerts, 2015)almost three cases
CONTACT Billie-Jo Grant billiejogrant@gmail.com Department of Statistics, College of Science and
Mathematics, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at www.tandfonline.com/wcsa.
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
https://doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2018.1483460
© 2018 Taylor & Francis
each day of the school year. This number is up from 459 cases reported in
2014 (Google Alerts, 2014). Due to a lack of funding for research, as well as
methodological barriers to studying school employee sexual abuse and mis-
conduct, it is unknown how many of those cases resulted in convictions and
how many additional incidents go unreported. There also is a shortage of
research evidence regarding what states and school districts are doing to
implement laws and policies aimed at preventing and responding to cases of
sexual abuse and misconduct among school employees. Internationally,
research studies and reports from news agencies are also limited, but do
show that sexual misconduct by school employees is widespread (i.e., Canada
(Moulden, Firestone, Kingstone, & Wexler, 2010), Europe (Gallagher, 2000;
May-Chanal & Cawson, 2005; Timmerman, 2003), Israel (Khoury-Kassabri,
2006), Australia (Knowles & Branley, 2014), South Africa (Madu, 2001;
Shumba, 2001), and Hong Kong (Tang, 2002)).
In 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act
(ESSA), which reauthorized the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary
Education Act (ESEA). A provision of the new law, Prohibition on Aiding
and Abetting Sexual Abuse,requires school personnel to report incidences
of school employee sexual misconduct to the proper authorities (8546, ESSA,
2015). It discourages school districts from entering into confidentiality agree-
ments with teachers who engage in sexual misconduct with students, a
practice that allows offenders to pursue positions in other school districts
without any public record of sexual abuse or misconduct. Unfortunately,
federal laws such as ESSA may not be thoroughly implemented because they
include limited plans for evaluation and limited accountability for failure to
comply. In other countries, laws and policies do exist to prevent sexual
harassment in educational institutions, but rarely address school employee
sexual misconduct specifically and have weak enforcement (Kaufman et al,
2016; UNESCO, 2017).
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of school employee
sexual abuse and misconduct, describe what passing the trash is and why it
occurs, describe U.S. federal and state laws such as the ESSA Prohibition on
Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuseand their requirements, and offer
resources and model language for state legislatures to prohibit passing the
trash.
School employee sexual abuse and misconduct
School employee sexual abuse and misconduct occurs when a school
employee (e.g., a teacher, coach, administrator, volunteer, or staff member)
sexually abuses a child (i.e., contact or non-contact) while caring for that
child in a K12 school setting. Sexual abuse may include any sexual activity
with a child where consent is not or cannot be given and sexual contact that
2B.-J. GRANT ET AL.
occurs through force or threat of force (Sexual Abuse, 18 U.S.C. §2242). It
comprises sexual crimes such as indecent liberties with a child, sexual abuse,
rape, and child pornography, among others. Sexual misconduct is a broader
term that encompasses both sexual abuse and acts that are not criminal but
may violate ethical codes (i.e., misconduct with a student who is over the age
of consent16 in many statesis not a crime, but is typically prohibited by
school policy). Unfortunately, various factors make students and student-
athletes vulnerable to sexual abuse and misconduct by school employees,
including the offenders authoritative roles, the age differential between the
school employee and the student, and community trust (Grant, 2011; Shoop,
2004; U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of the Under Secretary,
2004). These elements allow school employees to use their power over grades,
discipline, recommendations, or playing time to coerce or cajole students to
engage in sexual activity.
What are the characteristics of a school employee sexual abuse or
misconduct offender?
Contrary to common conception, sexual abuse and misconduct offenders
typically are popular, and they often have been recognized for excellence.
Offenders include all types of school employees, such as teachers, school
psychologists, coaches, principals, and superintendents (Hendrie, 1998;
Shoop, 2004; U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of the Under
Secretary, 2004). Offenders range in age and ethnicity, and they are most
frequently male (U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of the
Under Secretary, 2004;Hendrie,1998; Jennings & Tharp, 2003).
Beyond these general statistics, the field knows very little about offen-
derscharacteristics, as they span all ages, ethnicities, and income levels
(U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of the Under Secretary,
2004).
School employees who engage in sexual abuse or misconduct with children
have many different motives; some are repeat offenders, while others commit
offenses based on convenience (U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office
of the Under Secretary, 2004; LaFond, 2005; Pryor, 1996). A habitual offen-
der will abuse many different children, engaging in a pattern of abuse or
misconduct; an opportunistic offender, by contrast, may fall into an abusive
role while experiencing stressors such as loss of employment, love, or death,
all events which can lower inhibitions (Finkelhor, 1984; p. 45; Johnson, 2008;
Pryor, 1996). School employees who commit sexual offenses may be sexually
attracted to children (pedophilia), antisocial, or psychopathic. They may
evidence cognitive distortions and deficiencies in information-processing
skills; have impaired adult intimacy skills, unclear social boundaries, or
feelings of inadequacy or loneliness; or feel entitled. Or they may commit
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 3
offenses for reasons unknown (Hayashino, Wurtele, & Klebe, 1995; Marshall,
2010; Pryor, 1996; Salter, 2003; Shoop, 2004).
Ironically, the characteristics of teacherstudent relationships that help
foster a successful educational environment can also create a potentially
exploitative situation. Research has shown that those school employees
whose jobs include individual, isolated, or alone time with students (such
as music teachers, coaches, and counselors) are more likely to commit sexual
abuse or misconduct (U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of the
Under Secretary, 2004; Gallagher, 2000; Jennings & Tharp, 2003; Willmsen &
OHagen, 2003). Close contact with students, who are often eager to please
their teachers, allows offenders to groom
1
a student for eventual abuse, by
giving special attention and rewards while slowly increasing the amount of
touching or other sexual behaviors (Robins, 2000; Salter, 2003; Shoop, 2004).
In this way, offenders exploit studentsneed to please and take advantage of
the tremendous power they have over students (Van Dam, 2001, p. 106).
What are the characteristics of victims of school employee sexual
misconduct?
Victims of sexual abuse or misconduct by school personnel span most
demographic variables, though students who are low-income and female
are most likely to experience sexual misconduct at the hands of a school
employee (Finkelhor, 1984; Gallagher, 2000; Hendrie, 1998; Henschel &
Grant, in press; U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of the Under
Secretary, 2004). Researchers have shown that offenders target victims who
appear needier, may be picked on by others, or do not have a happy home
life because it is easier to gain the friendship of these vulnerable children
(Salter, 2003, p. 66). Similarly, students with disabilities are more likely to
experience school employee sexual abuse or misconduct (Sullivan &
Knutson, 2000; U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of the Under
Secretary, 2004).
While studies of the effects on victims of school employee sexual abuse
and misconduct are limited, we do know that victims of sexual abuse suffer
serious psychological, physical, academic, and behavioral consequences that
can last a lifetime (Dube et al., 2003; Felitti et al., 1998; AAUW, 2001;
Kendall-Tackett, 2002; Macmillian, 2000; Monnat & Chandler, 2015;US
DOE, 2014). Victims of sexual abuse are more likely to have problems with
drugs, alcohol, or substance abuse (Ford et al., 2011; La Fond, 2005; U.S.
Department of Education (DOE), Office of the Under Secretary, 2004), and
they often struggle with long-term symptoms such as chronic headaches,
fatigue, sleep disturbance, recurrent nausea, decreased appetite, eating dis-
orders, sexual dysfunction, suicide attempts, fear, anxiety, depression, anger,
hostility, and poor self-esteem (Kendall-Tackett, 2002). Sexual abuse also
4B.-J. GRANT ET AL.
impairs the victims ability to trust other people, potentially destroying a
victims chances to develop close personal relationships and especially
healthy sexual relationships (LaFond, 2005).
How do sexual predators and offenders end up in schools?
Sexual abuse and misconduct of children is an age-old problem; and school
systems are not immune to its pervasiveness. Unfortunately, sexual abuse is a
sensitive topic surrounded by a veil of silence that creates many loopholes
offenders can exploit to continue their behavior. These loopholes, which include
spotty background checks, a lack of information sharing between districts, and a
lack of knowledge among school administrators, allow offenders to enter
schools and get hired multiple times before being identified and convicted.
Background checks are limited, inconsistent, and rely on self-report
All but four states now require background checks for at least some school
employees, but those checks are limited by current capabilities and vary widely
in the level of stringency (GAO, 2014). Background checks may include matching
an applicants name, date of birth, social security number, or fingerprints to state
or federal criminal databases or child abuse and neglect registries. A total of 36
states rely on both state and federal sources; 6 states use state law enforcement data
only; 3 states use federal law enforcement data only; and 5 states do not require
background checks for applicants, regardless of position (Government
Accountability Office, 2014). Background check requirements are less stringent
for employees in positions that do not require licensure. Only 17 states require
criminal background checks for volunteers and only 36 states require them for
contractemployees, meaning janitors, secretaries, transportation personnel, and
maintenance workers (Government Accountability Office, 2014).
Even where requirements are strict, the thoroughness of background
checks is limited by the absence of an aggregated national search engine
for criminal records of sexual abuse and misconduct; search capabilities are
limited to individual state and federal databases (Government Accountability
Office, 2014; U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of the Under
Secretary, 2004). Conducting a complete national background check would
require searching each of the 50 state databases and the federal records
separately, a task few if any districts have time for. This makes it easy even
for offenders who have convictions to simply move to another state, where
they evade background checks by lying about the state and county of their
last employmentwithout knowledge that a potential employee has lived or
worked in a state, the new employer will have no reason to search that states
system. Even if the system is searched, some records may be expunged after a
certain amount of time passes, offering another loophole by which offenders
can reenter the school systems.
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 5
There is no publicly available, national database of disciplinary actions
against licenses and certifications
Sexual offenders do not only incur criminal charges; they may also be subject
to disciplinary actions. However, school districts have no way to access this
information, as there is no national database of disciplinary actions against
teachers. The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education
and Certification (NASDTEC), an independent nonprofit organization,
attempts to keep records of educators who have had their professional
licenses or certificates annulled, denied, suspended, revoked, or invalidated,
but administrative delays in sexual abuse and misconduct cases interfere with
timely reporting; an educator accused of sexual abuse or misconduct can be
employed at another school before any record appears in the database.
Furthermore, a USA Today report found that the NASDTEC database was
grossly incomplete, with more than 1,400 cases in which a teacher perma-
nently lost his or her license not listedpotentially allowing teachers to flee
accusations of abuse or misconduct by moving to new states (Reilly, 2016).
Finally, the database only tracks licensed employees; infractions committed
by contract or non-contract school staffs such as substitute teachers, bus
drivers, and coaches are not included. Even if a case does appear in the
NASDTEC database, not all school employers have access to it. Although
NASDTEC made read-only access free for education departments and jur-
isdictional agencies responsible for educator certification in 2016, organiza-
tions that do not meet this criteria must pay a fee. Those that do not can still
search state-by-state criminal databases, but those report only convictions
and may not reveal actions taken against certifications.
School staffs lack knowledge and awareness about school employee sexual
abuse
Many states have adopted policies that appear on their web sites, in their
handbooks, or in school board policies, but studies have shown that school
staffs remain unaware of what school employee sexual abuse and misconduct is,
what the warning signs are, and how and to whom to report it (Grant, 2011).
Because educational actors lack awareness about school employee sexual abuse,
they fail to recognize it or to properly report it to Child Protective Services (CPS)
and law enforcement personnel (Grant, 2011;Jennings&Tharp,2003;Kenny,
2001; Shakeshaft & Cohan, 1995;Shoop,2004;U.S.DepartmentofEducation
(DOE), Office of the Under Secretary, 2004; Willmsen & OHagan, 2003).
Schools fail to report sexual abuse and misconduct
As of 2014, 46 states had mandatoryreporting laws that require school personnel
to report suspicions of child abuse, including sexual abuse by any adult (parents,
family members, and school employees) or other students; 43 of those states
have penalties for not reporting (Government Accountability Office, 2014).
6B.-J. GRANT ET AL.
Despite these required reporting laws, administrators are apprehensive about
reporting school employee sexual abuse or misconduct to authorities because of
the potential stigma and loss of reputation, familial reactions, as well as legal
repercussions and liability for monetary damages, that a report can trigger
(Finkelhor, 1982; Grant, 2011; Hendrie, 1998;Shoop,2004). These fears are
powerful; only an estimated 5% of school employee sexual abuse and miscon-
duct incidents known to school employees are reported to law enforcement or
child welfare personnel despite clear policies and potential legal consequences
for failing to report an incident (Corbett, Gentry, & Pearson, 1993; Finkelhor,
Hoatrling & Yllo, 1988;Kenny,2001). A 1994 study in New York State found
that only 1% of the 225 cases superintendents disclosed to researchers were
reported to law enforcement or child welfare and resulted in license revocation
(Shakeshaft & Cohan, 1995). Some school administrators avoid the conse-
quences of reporting by making confidentiality agreements or negotiating pri-
vate settlements with offenders (Shakeshaft & Cohan, 1995; Shoop, 2004; Stein,
1999). Furthermore, collective bargaining clauses often allow for scrubbing of
personnel files, so no record is left once an offender leaves the system.
This practice, of allowing a known sexual predator to quietly leave the district,
potentially to seek work elsewhere, has become known as passing the trash,or
the lemon dance(Hobson, 2012). With no criminal conviction or disciplinary
record, the predator can obtain a new job and move onto other victims. On
average, a teacher-offender will be passed to three different districts before being
stopped (GAO, 2010); one offender can have as many as 73 victims in his or her
lifetime (Government Accountability Office, 2010). Table 1 provides examples
of school employee sexual abuse and misconduct cases in which the teacher had
committed offenses in multiple districts before being convicted.
Progress in banning passing the trash
States have a patchwork of laws that address background checks and man-
datory reporting behaviors, but they clearly do not prevent districts from
continuing to pass the trash. The ESSA provision Prohibition on Aiding and
Abetting Sexual Abuse(ESSA of 2015, section 8546) defines two critical
components those laws must include to stop this practice:
(1) Ban the aiding and abetting of school employee sexual abuse and
misconduct, and
(2) Ban confidentiality agreements between school employees and admin-
istration in cases of sexual abuse and misconduct.
The ban on aiding and abetting school employeessexual abuse and mis-
conduct includes allowing school employees who have committed abuse or
misconduct to leave a school district with a letter of recommendation and
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 7
without a record of their abuse or misconduct. The provision specifically
requires administrators to report incidences of sexual abuse or misconduct to
their states Department of Education and requires a penalty for those who
do not comply. The optional provisions provide for an exception if the
employee is currently under investigation or charges are acquitted, there is
insufficient information, or the charges have been dropped.
The second component is the ban on confidentiality agreements between
school employees and administrators. Teacher, union, and employee rights
agreements can limit the information a prior employer can share about a
school employee, but such information sharing can be critical to stopping an
offender from being rehired in another district. The ban on confidentiality
agreements is therefore essential to ensure that the school district is able to
disclose information about sexual abuse or misconduct to other employers.
These provisions are a good first step, but they are on their own, ineffec-
tive. ESSA, the law that includes the provision Prohibition on Aiding and
Abetting Sexual Abuse,is a federal law that defines what states must do to
receive federal funding for education and provides model language for state
laws and regulations. Figure 1 offers model language compiled from the
original bill proposed by Pennsylvanias Senator Toomeys office and bills
in Connecticut, Oregon, and Texas. For these provisions to have real effect,
Table 1. Examples of Passing the trash.
Position Case description Outcome
Teacher Neither the teacher nor her previous school district (in
another state) disclosed that she was suspended and
eventually resigned from her position in 2008 after
confessing to inappropriate feelings for a 14-year-old
student. Landing a new position in 2011, she began a
sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student and
eventually became pregnant with his child.
a
Arrested in 2014 for six counts
of unlawful sex with a minor.
Teacher and
coach
The teacher and coach was formally admonished by a
school in Pennsylvania for groping girls between 1993
and 2000. He was rehired within the same county in
2006; the first complaints were lodged against him
during the 20112012 school year. He transferred to
another elementary school in the same district, where
more parents filed complaints that he inappropriately
touched students on multiple occasions in 20132014.
b
Arrested in 2014 and convicted
of sexual assault.
Teacher The teacher sexually abused a 16-year-old student
during the 20132014 school year and, in 2013, had sex
with a 15-year-old student from the high school where
he previously taught. The victim from the previous
school filed a lawsuit that alleged the superintendent
knew about the sex crimes and, instead of informing
authorities, gave the teacher a favorable
recommendation.
c
Convicted in April 2015 of
having sex with two students.
References:
a
Murphy (2014);
b
Thompson (2015);
c
Fountain (2015).
8B.-J. GRANT ET AL.
states must enact their own laws and regulations that comply with the ESSA
mandate.
Although ESSA mandates that states pass legislation and offers model
language for that legislation, it offers no guarantee that states will be held
accountable for implementation of the provision. If the provision is not
implemented at the state level, children may not be any more protected
from school employee sexual abuse or misconduct than they were before
the law was enacted. The U.S. Department of Education requires each state to
submit an ESSA plan, but that plan focuses on the implementation of
programs outlined under section 8302 of ESEA, as amended by the ESSA
(US DOE, 2017a). Unfortunately, the template for the state plan does not
include a section to address the requirements of the Prohibition on Aiding
Figure 1. Model legislation to comply with ESSAs ban on aiding & abetting sexual abuse.
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 9
and Abetting Sexual Abuseprovision. With no explicit directive to do so,
states are not likely to outline their intentions to address this provision.
This is a critical oversight; the consolidated plans represent an important
step in the process of translating federal provisions into state-level policy.
Without any evident prioritization of the provision by the Department of
Education, it is effectively a symbolic policya policy written at any level of
bureaucracy that is not intended to be fully implemented (Blumer, 1986;
Smith, Miller-Kahn, Heinecke, & Jarvis, 2004). And it appears that is what is
happening. As of May 2017, 16 states and the District of Columbia had
submitted state ESSA plans for peer review (US DOE, 2017b).
2
Although this
list does not reflect state plans the U.S. Department of Education deems
completethe plans could be revised based on peer-review feedbacka
review of the documents indicates that these proposed plans do not include
any language or procedures focused on addressing the Prohibition on
Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse.
Status of statesaction
We sought to establish how many states have acted to implement the ESSA
provision and ban passing the trash. In October 2016January 2017,
researchers called or e-mailed representatives in various state department
of education divisions, including legislative offices, liaison and commissioner
offices, governmental relations offices, ESSA officials, attorney generals, and
public affairs offices, asking to speak with the person who would be aware of
any laws to address compliance with recent ESSA changes and their imple-
mentation. Researchers asked representatives if they were aware of the ESSA
provision and if their state had laws that complied with the provision (ESSA
section 8456).
3
While some representatives we spoke to referred to state laws
and codes of ethics that included information about banning sexual abuse
and misconduct, only four states reported having laws that directly addressed
the requirements of the Prohibition on Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse.
Laws passed
As of January 2017, only four statesConnecticut, Oregon, Pennsylvania,
and Texashave passed laws that meet ESSAs requirement. Those laws, the
text of which is provided in Table 2, vary in complexity and stringency;
Connecticut does not require private and parochial schools to abide by the
law, leaving a loophole for predators to find employment in private and
parochial schools. An additional seven states are working on draft language.
Thus, 39 states currently lack legislation or prospective legislation focused
designed to protect students from sexual abuse and misconduct by school
10 B.-J. GRANT ET AL.
employees. Figure 2 shows the number of states that currently meet the
requirement, are drafting language, or lack any legislation.
Among the seven states working on plans to address the federal mandate,
legislative language is in various stages of development; these states either
had bills being prepared for General Assembly hearings in 2017 or were
constructing draft bills as a result of researchers contacting them. These
states reviewed existing legislation to respond to researchersinformation
request and realized there were no laws regarding the ESSA provision. Five
Table 2. States with laws complying with ESSA Prohibition of aiding and abetting sexual abuse
and misconduct.
State Relevant text from bill or law Effective date
CT HB 5400; Public Act No. 1667
No local or regional board of education, council or operator shall enter into a
collective bargaining agreement, an employment contract, an agreement for
resignation or termination, a severance agreement or any other contract or
agreement or take any action that: (1) Has the effect of suppressing information
relating to an investigation of a report of suspected abuse or neglect or sexual
misconduct by a current or former employee; (2) Affects the ability of the local or
regional board of education, council or operator to report suspected abuse or
neglect or sexual misconduct to appropriate authorities; or (3) Requires the local or
regional board of education, council or operator to expunge information about an
allegation or a finding of suspected abuse or neglect or sexual misconduct from
any documents maintained by the board, unless after investigation such allegation
is dismissed or found to be false.
a
July 1, 2016
OR HB 2062; Chapter 93, (2009 Laws)
Prohibits education provider from entering into agreement or contract that
suppresses information related to child abuse or sexual conduct, affects providers
duty to report suspected child abuse or sexual conduct or impairs providers ability
to discipline employee for child abuse or sexual conduct.
b
July 1, 2010
PA HB 2063; 1949 Act 14 Sec. 111.1f
On or after the effective date of this section, a school entity or independent
contractor may not enter into a collective bargaining agreement, an employment
contract, an agreement for resignation or termination, a severance agreement or
any other contract or agreement or take any action that: (1) has the effect of
suppressing information relating to an investigation related to a report of
suspected abuse or sexual misconduct by a current or former employee; (2) affects
the ability of the school entity or independent contractor to report suspected
abuse or sexual misconduct to the appropriate authorities; or (3) requires the
school entity or independent contractor to expunge information about allegations
or findings of suspected abuse or sexual misconduct from any documents
maintained by the school entity or independent contractor, unless after
investigation the allegations are found to be false.
c
June 1, 2014
WA RCW 28A.400.301
The board or an official of a school district shall not enter into a collective
bargaining agreement, individual employment contract, resignation agreement,
severance agreement, or any other contract or agreement that has the effect of
suppressing information about verbal or physical abuse or sexual misconduct by a
present or former employee or of expunging information about that abuse or
sexual misconduct from any documents in the previous employers personnel,
investigative, or other files relating to verbal or physical abuse or sexual
misconduct by the applicant.
d
September 1,
2004
References:
a
Public Act No. 16-67 (State of Connecticut, 2016);
b
Chapter 93 (State of Oregon, 2015);
c
1949 Act
14 (State of Pennsylvania, 2014);
d
RCW 28A.400.301 (State of Washington, 2004).
Note. As of January 2017
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 11
states actively began drafting bills; one state representative asked the
researchers for model language to ensure guidelines were met. Another
state representative said the department would start its own research as a
result of this study and would draft a bill to be addressed in the next
legislative session.
No legislation
Of the states with no legislation, four indicated they were working on
legislation and could not confirm what legislation would be addressed or
when, and an additional four said there were no current laws or pending
legislation to address the provision. A representative from Stop Educator
Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.) confirmed that
there was no current law and nothing was being drafted in one state with
which we could not establish contact.
The remaining 39 states gave various reasons for lacking current or work-
ing legislation to address the ESSA provision. Most24 representatives
provided current state laws or ethical codes as confirmation that their state
already adheres to the requirements of the federal provision. In most cases,
those assertions were incorrect. Although some of these laws and codes
discussed preventive procedures or disciplinary actions against sexual abuse
and misconduct by educators, none addressed aiding and abetting or speci-
fically prohibited confidentiality agreements.
Figure 2. Status of Aiding and abettingLegislation for school employee sexual abuse and
misconduct.
12 B.-J. GRANT ET AL.
For example, 12 states cited laws referring to state background check
requirements or criminal history reports as sufficient for meeting the condi-
tions of aiding and abetting. One representative told a researcher,
Although they do not contain the specific language referred to in ESSA, we have
laws in place that require criminal history record checks for [State] employees that
will be working in close proximity of children. These laws allow for the termina-
tion of or denial of employment for individuals convicted of a crime.
While background checks are important to limit the hiring of offenders, they
do not prevent schools from aiding and abetting offenders in getting rehired
in other districts.
Eight representatives cited laws or codes mandating that school personnel
report instances of child abuse. One respondent said,
We believe we already have laws in place that accomplish the [aiding and abetting]
items below [ESSA provision]. Specifically, [State Act], includes a list of profes-
sionals/individuals who are designated mandated reporterswho must, by law,
report suspected abuse/neglect of a child to DCFS [Department of Child and
Family Services]. Failure to report makes an individual subject to criminal
penalties.
Mandatory reporting laws are useful to identify cases of sexual misconduct
and abuse; but again, do not meet the ESSA provisions standards for
banning passing the trash.
A total of 10 additional states referenced codes requiring license or
certification revocation as well as employment termination and policies
requiring educators to maintain professional relationships with students
inside and outside of the classroomand to refrain from unethical conduct,
including any sexual act with a student regardless of age. One state requires a
letter of reprimand, suspension, revocation, or denial of certification to any
person known to have been convicted of a criminal offense involving
immoral conduct, such as sexual misconduct. Some state officials referred
to NASDTECs database of disciplinary actions taken against educator certi-
fications or mentioned that states keep a list of teachers whose licenses have
been revoked. One member referenced a bill that requires that, in
scenarios where a school employee is not necessarily convicted of a crime, but is
recommended for termination based on grounds that could form the basis of
criminal charges sufficient to result in the denial or revocation of a certificate...
the school district must forward a copy of the termination recommendation to the
State Board of Education. . . School districts considering a teacher for employment
may request a copy of any recommendations received by the State Board regarding
that teacher.
While licensing and policies associated with it can help prevent offenders
from getting licensed, they do not meet the ESSA provisions criteria for
banning aiding and abetting.
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 13
Finally, four states were still considering ESSA legislation at the state level
and either could not provide any insights into the direction of their plans or
were completely unaware of this particular provision. One state official
replied,
We are currently considering the impact of ESSA in our state, including this
provision and how best to move forward.
Another representative said,
I checked with staff and to our knowledge there is no state law regarding this issue
and no proposed legislation.
ESSA encompasses various elements of education, such as student perfor-
mance, and many states were focusing their plans on other elements of the
law, leaving the prohibition on aiding and abetting unaddressed.
Discussion
States are required to submit their consolidated plans to the U.S. Department
of Education for peer review (Department of Education, 2016a,2016b);
however, as of September 2017, 39 states still have no working draft of
legislation to ban passing the trash and prevent unreported offenders from
gaining access to students. In these states, there is no apparent timeline for
enacting laws and policies to enforce ESSAs provision, nor are there any
clear repercussions for failing to do so, short of the theoretical loss of federal
funding due to noncompliance. Significantly, the law explicitly prevents the
Secretary of Education from mandating, directing, or controlling specific
measures that states or districts must take to be in compliance with the
law. Thus, states, state educational agencies, and school districts must take
the lead in establishing consequences for assisting a known offender in
obtaining a new job in schools.
While many states referenced mandatory reporting requirements as
sufficient to respond to ESSAs criteria, these laws do not fulfill the
requirements outlined in the provision. Mandatory reporting laws require
persons in positions of authority to report abuse to CPS or law enforce-
ment.Butwithoutanexclusivebanonaidingandabettingincluding
entering into confidentiality agreements and writing letters of recommen-
dation for school employees known to have committed sexual misconduct
with studentsthere is nothing to stop school leaders from reporting
abuse and then allowing the employee involved to resign, failing to
disclose information to other schools where the employee seeks employ-
ment, or in the worst case, even recommending the employee for another
position.
14 B.-J. GRANT ET AL.
This research has some limitations that might have affected the results of
this study. While we contacted each state department of education for direct
information, it is difficult to know if the person who provided the answers to
our questions was informed of all efforts to address ESSA. There may be
other staff members working on legislation to address the provision. To
address this limitation, research into the status of state-level aiding and
abetting legislation will be ongoing and reported annually.
No one can argue that passing the trash is acceptable, yet research suggests
it still occurs and state-level laws and policies to prevent it are slow to
emerge. The ESSA provision lays out criteria for effective laws and provides
states with model language, but some state representatives remain unaware of
the provision and many believe that it is covered by extant child abuse
legislation; in most cases, this is not true. This lack of knowledge or aware-
ness suggests a need to educate state policymakers and education leaders
about what aiding and abetting sexual offenders consists of, what conse-
quences it could have for vulnerable students, and what provisions states
could enact to prohibit it.
Including the Prohibition on Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuseprovi-
sion in the ESSA law was an important first step in stopping sexual abuse and
misconduct by school employees. However, unless states incorporate the
elements of the provision into their legislation and enforce aiding and
abetting bans through explicit laws and policies, schools will continue to
pass the trash. Without some accountability for this behavior, students will
continue to be exposed to sexual predators, with serious, long-term
consequences.
Notes
1. Grooming involves activities intended to establish an emotional connection with a
student and normalize sexual behavior.
2. (Arizona Department of Education, 2017;Colorado Department of Education, 2017;
Connecticut Department of Education, 2017; Delaware Department of Education,
2017; ; District of Columbia Department of Education, 2017; Illinois Department of
Education, 2017; Louisiana Department of Education, 2017; Maine Department of
Education, 2017; Massachusetts Department of Education, 2017; Michigan
Department of Education, 2017; Nevada Department of Education, 2017; New Jersey
Department of Education, 2017; New Mexico Department of Education, 2017; North
Dakota Department of Education, 2017; Oregon Department of Education, 2015;
Tennessee Department of Education, 2017; Vermont Department of Education, 2017).
3. Researchers tracked responses in an Excel spreadsheet that captured the state, depart-
ment of education office contacted, contact name, e-mail, phone number, status of
state-level law or bill addressing the ESSA provision, and notes. Follow-up commu-
nication was made with states that did not reply after the initial round of communica-
tion. A total of 17 states provided a response to our request for information by phone,
and 18 states by e-mail. Information for nine states was provided by S.E.S.A.M.E., a
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 15
nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of school employee sexual abuse
and misconduct, and 6 states either did not reply or pointed us to information on their
web sites that did not meet the requirements. Results were corroborated with Terri
Miller, President of S.E.S.A.M.E. Ms. Miller is an active supporter of the ESSA provi-
sion and is often the first person contacted by state representatives seeking model
language to comply with ESSA.
Disclosure statement
The opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication
are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.
Funding
This project is supported by Award No. [2015-CK-BX-0009] awarded by the National
Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
Notes on contributors
Billie-Jo Grant has a Ph.D. in Educational Research, Statistics and Evaluation from the Curry
School at the University of Virginia and is an experienced quantitative and qualitative
methodologist, researcher, and evaluator as well as an expert on school employee sexual
misconduct. She has led multiple national efficacy studies and was the principal investigator
on a 2015 2017 Department of Justice funded study, School Employee Sexual Misconduct,
Policy Implementation and Effectiveness, examining school employee sexual misconduct
policy implementation nationwide.
Stephanie Wilkerson has a Ph.D. in Education Research, Statistics, and Evaluation from the
Curry School at the University of Virginia, is the President of Magnolia Consulting, and has
extensive experience in designing and implementing national studies.
Molly Henschel has a Ph.D. in Educational Evaluation and Research from Virginia
Commonwealth University. She is a researcher and evaluator with Magnolia Consulting
and supports quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods studies.
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... This type of scenario emphasizes a gap in information sharing known as "passing the trash." 83 The phrase "passing the trash" refers specifically to enabling elementary school teachers to pursue another job after being fired for sexual abuse allegations but is oftentimes what happens to college or postgraduate professors who are accused or found guilty of sexual harassment. 83 Administrations may fear legal liability and ruined reputations if they were to reveal the truth surrounding the termination. ...
... 83 The phrase "passing the trash" refers specifically to enabling elementary school teachers to pursue another job after being fired for sexual abuse allegations but is oftentimes what happens to college or postgraduate professors who are accused or found guilty of sexual harassment. 83 Administrations may fear legal liability and ruined reputations if they were to reveal the truth surrounding the termination. This allows sexual predators to pursue positions in other school districts with no AM J HEALTH-SYST PHARM | VOLUME XX | NUMBER XX | XXXX XX, 2021 public record of the sexual abuse or misconduct. ...
... Despite this, lack of widespread implementation, plans for evaluation, and actual liability for schools who fail to comply have led to the continued practice of passing the trash. 83 Similarly, for various reasons, institutions of higher education rarely disclose information surrounding issues of sexual misconduct following termination, which permits the terminated harasser to obtain employment opportunities at other institutions. ...
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Reports of sexual relationships between teachers and their students have risen across the country. This study qualitatively examines existing school district policies in Nevada to determine what the existing policies cover, how the potential consequences are outlined, whether the policies give teachers guidance on how to navigate tricky ethical situations, and lastly, what information is not covered within these policies. Our findings indicate that most districts use required boilerplate language about sexual harassment but lack specific guidance for navigating complex situations where boundaries seem to get crossed (e.g., social media). We conclude with recommendations for policy reform and continued education.
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The sexual abuse of students in grades K-12 by educators/school personnel is an understudied phenomenon in society. The present chapter explores and describes the extant empirical research on students sexually victimized by educators with an emphasis on offense prevalence, victim characteristics and behaviors, offender characteristics and behaviors, contextual incident characteristics, initiatives to address the problem, and shortcomings that impede awareness and knowledge. Shortcomings include a lack of national-level data collection, perception and delegitimization, transferring alleged offenders to other school systems, and reporting practices. This chapter provides readers with contemporary information on the scope and scale of educator sexual abuse through the description of these invisible victims, their offenders, and incident characteristics of the offense.
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Purpose. In the current study, we present data describing adolescents’ perceptions and knowledge of educator sexual misconduct. Prior research has not investigated how adolescents understand these situations, and this information can help school leaders, educators, and researchers both understand how these situations begin and develop programs aimed at identifying cases of misconduct in order to reduce future occurrences. Research Design. The study took place in a Texas city designated as an “Other City Center” District Type by Texas Education Agency. The study’s 1,203 participants were secondary students from the district. Findings. Findings indicate that almost 2% of those surveyed openly admitted to currently being consensually sexually involved with a teacher. Those in a relationship were equally likely to be male or female, were older, and were engaged in risky online activities, including using the internet to connect with strangers, sending or receiving sexually suggestive pictures and videos, and searching for their teacher on social media. Implications. There are numerous implications for policy and preparation at various levels, from state and national legislation to school and school district policy to teacher- and principal-preparation programs.
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The abuse of students by PreK-12 school personnel continues to be a multifaceted issue that affects students, staff, parents, and communities at an alarming rate. This two-part special issue builds on the dated and limited literature in this topic area and includes qualitative and quantitative research on prevalence, victim and offender characteristics, barriers to prevention, and frameworks and standards for prevention. Together these articles highlight the need for systematic data collection, policy implementation, accountability, and training and awareness. The findings from these articles provide specific practices that schools can adopt and follow to prevent school employee sexual misconduct.
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While the media continue to report incidents of school employee sexual misconduct, few empirical studies focus on this issue. To address this gap in the literature, expand knowledge and awareness around the problem, and inform future research and programs, this research intends to document and analyze the characteristics of school employee sexual misconduct cases reported in the media. The authors conducted a landscape analysis of 361 published school employee sexual misconduct cases in the United States from 2014, documenting factors such as offender and victim characteristics, type of incident, technology use, location of offense, and resulting disciplinary actions by schools and law enforcement. These analyses showed that offenders were most often male and general education teachers, with approximately a quarter identified as athletic coaches. Offenders’ average age was 36 years, while the average age of victims was 15. More than half of incidents took place at school or school-related events. Results also showed that school employee sexual misconduct incidents most often involved physical contact; however, technology (i.e., cell phones, computers, cameras/video recorders, and storage devices) played an important role in three out of four cases. Finally, analyses of the criminal and school-related consequences showed that over half of offenders were placed on administrative leave or resigned immediately following their arrest and almost all were convicted of their crimes. Additional findings concerning this topic are also reported in this article.
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In January 2013, the Governor-General of Australia appointed a six-member Royal Commission to inquire into how institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission is tasked with investigating where systems have failed to protect children, and making recommendations on how to improve laws, policies and practices to prevent and better respond to child sexual abuse in institutions
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This study examined associations between adverse childhood family experiences and adult physical health using data from 52,250 U.S. adults aged 18 to 64 from the 2009 to 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. We found that experiencing childhood physical, verbal, or sexual abuse, witnessing parental domestic violence, experiencing parental divorce, and living with someone who was depressed, abused drugs or alcohol, or who had been incarcerated were associated with one or more of the following health outcomes: self-rated health, functional limitations, diabetes, and heart attack. Adult socioeconomic status and poor mental health and health behaviors significantly mediated several of these associations. The results of this study highlight the importance of family-based adverse childhood experiences on adult health outcomes and suggest that adult socioeconomic status (SES) and stress-related coping behaviors may be crucial links between trauma in the childhood home and adult health.
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The authors argue that the most influential and well-known educational policy programs in the past 30 years are not based on democratic consensus, but are instead formulated by the political community as symbolic efforts meant to generate personal partisan gain.
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This study presents results of a survey that asked current university students to recall instances of sexual harassment by high school teachers. Although most respondents did not think that sexual harassment by teachers was frequent or serious in their high schools, half cited examples of such incidents involving other students. Approximately 6% of the respondents reported having personally experienced sexually inappropriate attention from high school teachers. In addition, over one third noted that they knew of a sexual relationship between a high school student and a teacher. In these cases, the majority of the respondents thought the student and the teacher were equally interested in the affair. This finding, in conjunction with other responses, provided evidence that students often disclaimed instances of sexual harassment in high school.