What is Passing the Trash?
Schools perpetuating sexual misconduct towards children by educators has been, and continues to be, a major problem across the nation. When parents send their children to school, they trust that the school is doing everything they can to keep children safe. Still, schools continue to employ educators with a history of sexual abuse. Often schools do not disclose misconduct, and keep poor records of it. The casual due diligence of new employers fail to properly examine the background of potential teachers, meaning sexual predators are frequently hired into an entirely new location for their misdeeds.
Missouri House Bill 739 aims to stop school districts in Missouri from “Passing the Trash”. This is when a teacher accused of sexual misconduct is allowed to quietly leave a school and seek employment at another school which has not been properly alerted of past misconduct. This can include confidential separation agreements, meaning that if the new employer asks for records from the previous school, documents concerning sexual misconduct will not be provided.
Why Keep it Confidential?
The ultimate reason for these sensitive documents to be withheld is to protect the school’s reputation. To have the name of a school or entire district alongside a headline about sexual misconduct can be damaging. So, a school will ask the abuser to simply resign. Schools even go so far as including a positive performance review to the next school district, ensuring a quick dissociation from their own.
The school also keeps these documents confidential to protect them from legal action. For a school to inform another school of an educator’s misconduct, it is possible for the accused can sue the school for defamation of character.
The consequence of keeping this information out of sight is a lifetime of trauma for millions of children. Upon leaving one school, abusers continue their misconduct onto the next. Teachers with a history of sexual misconduct with minors made it through an average of three different school districts before being stopped.
Taking Out the Trash
Missouri’s HB 739 is one of the many Pass the Trash bills that are being introduced across the nation. It first makes it a requirement for schools to contact an educator’s previous employer. In addition, schools being asked to provide these records must disclose any and all information regarding abusive behaviors towards students.
This bill also requires comprehensive sexual harassment training to be included in educators’ orientation, as well as periodic refresher training. In addition, school districts will provide age-appropriate sexual harassment training to students in sixth grade and above.
This bill is a step forward in protecting children from sexual abuse. With educators and students trained with the proper knowledge of how to identify, and what to do in these situations, we begin to foster a safer, more powerful generation.