HARRISBURG, Feb. 4, 2014 – State Sen. Anthony H. Williams’ fight to prevent school districts from “passing” teachers suspected of sexual misconduct to other schools instead of the police packed new muscle Friday morning when U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane joined the conversation.
Williams and Kane teamed up with Toomey at Polyclinic Community Health Center in Harrisburg to endorse the federal lawmaker’s legislative effort in Washington D.C.
Toomey’s bill mirrors Sen. Williams’ Senate Bill 46, which has been unanimously approved by Pennsylvania’s Senate and would close the loophole that now allows school districts to hire employees who have an undisclosed history of investigations and dismissals for abuse or sexual misconduct.
“People who work in education across Pennsylvania and throughout the United States are allowed to leave jobs in quiet disgrace, but because there is no law to prevent them from finding new employment in another district, they find new jobs in new schools and continue their old, sick and dangerous behaviors,” Sen. Williams said. “Our children have been victimized and traumatized by the worst offenders. Some students have been killed by these people.”
SB 46 went to the state House of Representatives Oct. 22, but it has yet to receive final consideration from that chamber.
“Pennsylvania lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of my SESAME bill at every stage so I am hopeful that Congress will receive Sen. Toomey’s bill with equal fervor and urgency,” Sen. Williams said. “I’m also hoping the PA House will quickly move this bill to the governor for his approval.”
Sen. Toomey said he expects bipartisan support for his proposal, which would create the “Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act.”
Williams’ SESAME proposal stands for “Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation.”
The Philadelphia Democrat’s proposal would prohibit “confidentiality agreements” that routinely allow predators to resign quietly and seek employment elsewhere without any trace of past sexual misconduct allegations.
Kane said the bills’ proposal to expand background checks on all employees who work in schools would be very important in helping law enforcement officials stop schools from “passing the trash” to other schools.
While Williams has been leading the charge in Harrisburg to get SB 46 adopted, more high-profile cases have been reported involving teachers who allegedly committed sexual misconduct at other schools only to land new jobs elsewhere and then continue preying on unsuspecting students.
In the first case, Pennridge High School coach Eric Romig allegedly sexually assaulted a student at his high school after Faith Christian Academy in Sellersville allowed him to resign following allegations of sexual misconduct there.
In Harrisburg, a grand jury’s investigation revealed that Susquehanna Township School District Administrator Shawn Sharkey had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old female student. Sharkey’s records from his previous employment with the School District of Philadelphia reportedly contained several “red flags” that, if shared with Susquehanna Township, would have prevented his hiring.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico has urged the adoption of Sen. Williams’ “Pass the Trash” legislation, as well as Sen. Toomey’s bill to create the “Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act.”