Bill To Help Report Teacher Sexual Misconduct Derailed In OK

Tuesday, March 31st 2015, 6:26 pm
By: News 9

The legislation intended to help protect students from predatory teachers was unexpectedly derailed.

However, the author of the bill intended to reduce the number of students victimized by inappropriate teachers said he will keep fighting.

Senator Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, drafted Senate Bill 301 after identifying at least 40 cases of sexual allegations against teachers in the state.

1/23/2015 Related Story: Bill Proposed To Help Report Sexual Misconduct In Oklahoma

Unfortunately, he said there's no guarantee the Oklahoma Department of Education, which licenses teacher, would know about those cases.

"This is a systematic problem, and it's not all teachers,” Loveless said. “It's a very, very small percentage, but when we drop our kids off we want to make sure that they are safe."

Under the current system, Loveless said allegations of teachers having sexual relationships with students are sometimes kept quiet, in the interest of both the students' parents and the school. Those teachers are allowed to resign and leave, but they keep their teaching certifications and are able to get hired in different school districts without any knowledge of the earlier allegations.

There is no requirement for local school leaders to report instances of possible sexual misconduct to the Oklahoma Board of Education.

Loveless' bill called for mandatory notification and would have assigned an investigator to the board to review such cases.

"We have to have a clearing house where all of these things go to one place," said Loveless.

The bill was approved by the Senate, on a vote of 32 to 14, three weeks ago.

It was scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee yesterday, but it didn't make it out. In fact, it didn't even come up for a vote.

Some lawmakers and educators, including Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, claimed investigating teachers is law enforcement's job.

Other notable remarks were made, including some saying the problem was not as significant as indicated.

Loveless argued the critic's opinions were based on misconceptions about the bill.

A spokesperson for Hofmeister called the legislation "an unnecessary expansion of government." Phil Bacharach said there could be "significant problems if the State Department of Education was thrust into the position of criminal investigator."

Bacharach also added, "Student safety is of paramount importance to Supt. Hofmeister.”

Despite the setback, Senator Loveless said he's not given up, and believes there's still a chance to get the bill through this session.