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Contact: Brittany O'Neill / 609-847-3600
January 25, 2018
ADVANCED: Pennacchio/Bucco Bill to Protect Students from Chronic Child Abusers

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Will Stop Schools from “Passing the Trash” to Other Districts

Legislation by Senators Joe Pennacchio (R-26) and Anthony Bucco (R-25) to stop teachers who have abused children from being allowed to move unnoticed from school to school was approved by the Senate Education Committee.

“Pass the Trash” legislation by Senators Pennacchio and Bucco passes the Senate Education Committee (©iStock)

The legislation, S-414, targets the problem of “passing the trash” in New Jersey school systems by requiring school districts, charter schools, and contract service providers to review all employment history of potential employees.

“Sexual abusers rarely are strangers, with 90 percent of abused children targeted by someone they know or trust, like a teacher,” said Pennacchio. “When substantiated allegations of abuse have been made against a teacher in one school, they should not be able to move to another school under the radar. A system must be emplaced to give schools the tools they need to prevent abusers from getting into a new classroom where they can hurt more children.”

Schools are often fearful of damaging their reputations by highlighting abuse and of the impacts of costly litigation that may accompany efforts to remove a teacher.

Often, when a teacher is suspected of abuse, schools simply tell them to move on to another job with the implicit understanding that messier outcomes may arise for both the teacher and the school if formal action is required to terminate employment. That results in the process known as “passing the trash,” where teachers are pushed off to other schools that are not aware of prior concerns.

Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey (PCA-NJ) reports that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys fall victim to child sexual abuse before the age of 18. PCA-NJ explains that 80 percent of these sexual abuse cases are never reported to authorities.

“We have the responsibility to provide a safe environment for students, but some kids still end up in classrooms with teachers who shouldn’t be there,” said Bucco. “Requiring schools to conduct background checks with previous employers is a common-sense solution that will help prevent child abusers from entering new classrooms. We can stop schools from passing the trash.”

This bill will protect students from verbal, written, or electronic sexual abuse that is between a school district’s staff member and children from k-12.

The Legislation includes penalties for applicants that provide false information or fail to disclose information on prior employment history and requires the Department of Education to create a public awareness campaign to combat chronic child abuse.

Legislation, A-4442, in the Assembly is sponsored by Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26.)

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