Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Joann Downey, along with co-sponsor Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, to thoroughly vet prospective school employees for allegations of sexual misconduct to prevent sexual predators from working in schools received final legislative approval on Monday and now heads to the governor.
There have been numerous cases where teachers accused of sexual misconduct involving children in one school were able to find work in other schools where they victimized other children. The past misconduct may not have been shared with the hiring school district, at times because of a non-disclosure agreement, leaving the hiring district without this important information.
“The way things are set up now, predators seem to have free reign to move from school to school and hurt children without any consequence,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Having a review that is meant to reveal these types of accusations can help protect students from these predators.”
The bill (A-3381) would require school districts, charter schools, nonpublic schools, and contracted service providers to review employment history of prospective employees to discover allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct involving children.
The bill would prohibit the consideration of a job application unless there is a review of the employment history of the applicant that includes contacting former and current employers, and requesting information regarding child abuse and sexual misconduct allegations involving children.
The applicant would only be required to list employers from the prior twenty years that were schools or where the employment involved direct contact with children.
The school district, charter school, nonpublic school, or contracted service provider must ask those employers for a statement as to whether the applicant:
- was the subject of any child abuse or sexual misconduct investigation by any employer, state licensing agency, law enforcement agency, or the Department of Children and Families;
- investigation of any child abuse or sexual misconduct involving children, by any employer, state licensing agency, law enforcement agency, or the Department of Children and Families, if the investigation resulted in a finding that the allegations were substantiated;
- was disciplined, discharged, non-renewed, asked to resign from employment, resigned from or otherwise separated from any employment while allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct were pending or under investigation, or due to an adjudication or finding of child abuse or sexual misconduct; or
- has ever had a license, professional license or certificate suspended, surrendered, or revoked while allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct were pending or under investigation, or due to an adjudication or finding of child abuse or sexual misconduct.
The applicant must also provide his own written statement disclosing any of the same matters, and provide a written authorization that consents to and authorizes disclosure of the information requested by the prospective employer and releases the applicant’s former and current employers from any liability arising from the disclosure.
No later than 20 days after receiving a request for information, an employer that has or has had an employment relationship within the last 20 years with the applicant must disclose the information requested.
The information received by a prospective employer under the provisions of this bill is deemed not to be a public record. In addition, the bill provides that the entity providing information or records to the prospective employer will be immune from criminal and civil liability for the disclosure of the information, unless the information or records provided were knowingly false.
On or after the date of enactment of this bill, a school district, charter school, nonpublic school, or contracted service provider may not enter into an agreement for resignation or termination, a severance agreement, or any other contract or agreement or take any action that:
- has the effect of suppressing or destroying information relating to an investigation related to a report of suspected child abuse or sexual misconduct involving children by a current or former employee;
- affects the ability of the school district, charter school, nonpublic school, or contracted service provider to report suspected child abuse or sexual misconduct involving children to the appropriate authorities; or
- requires the school district, charter school, nonpublic school, or contracted service provider to expunge information about allegations or findings of suspected child abuse or sexual misconduct involving children from any documents maintained by the school district, charter school, nonpublic school, or contracted service provider, unless after investigation the allegations were not found to be substantiated.
Any provision of an employment contract or agreement for resignation or termination or a severance agreement that is executed, amended or entered into after the date or enactment of the bill and that is contrary to these requirements would be void and unenforceable.
The bill was approved 38-0 Monday, Feb. 26 by the Senate, and 73-0 by the Assembly on Feb. 15.