Lawmakers approved legislation aimed at helping protect schools from unknowingly hiring sexual predators this week. Senate Bill 301 will soon be considered by the full Senate, officials said.
The bill would close a loophole that allows school employees to move from one school district to another after committing sexual crimes against minors.
“Under current law, we have a problem because school districts are given the option whether or not to report inappropriate relationships or sexual misconduct to the State School Board of Education,” said Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. “What happens too many times is that a rape or molestation occurs, an investigation takes place and the victim's parents and the school board agree that if the perpetrator simply resigns, no charges will be filed. The perpetrator then moves to a different school district, which isn't allowed to ask why the individual resigned from their previous job. The predator gets hired and is free to commit the same crimes until he or she is caught again.”
Without closing the loophole, the State Board of Education has the authority to not issue or revoke the teaching certificate of anyone convicted of certain crimes such as sexual abuse or exploitation with a minor, lawmakers told News 9. The district attorney must notify the applicable school district superintendent and the State Board of Education if charges are filed against a school employee for such crimes and if there is a conviction, authorities said.
Senate Bill 301 would require local school district boards of education, rather than the district attorney, to notify the State Board of Education within 30 days of an employee being fired or resigning while under investigation for violating the law. The measure would also allow the State Board of Education to hire someone to investigate such cases, lawmakers said in a press release on Monday.