Keeping sex predators out of schoolrooms

In 2010, the Government Accountability Office found “hundreds of potential cases of registered sex offenders working in schools” across the U.S. “Hundreds” is unacceptable. Even a small number of sex offenders can inflict damage far out of proportion to their numbers. The GAO cited studies in which 232 child molesters admitted to molesting 17,000 children. It also cited research sponsored by the Department of Education estimating that millions of students are subjected to sexual misconduct during their school career, though few ever report it.

In response to the GAO’s findings, the House in October unanimously passed the bipartisan Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act. Introduced by California Democrat George Miller, the bill seeks to close the bureaucratic gaps that are often caused by inconsistent state hiring and disciplinary practices that allow sex offenders and violent criminals to get jobs in schools. It proposes a standard vetting process across all states that would apply to every teacher, as well as any school employee or contractor with unsupervised access to kids.

Anyone with violent or sexual convictions against a child—whether a misdemeanor or felony—would be ineligible for school employment. Background checks would be more thorough, using expanded databases including the FBI’s fingerprint database, the national and state sex offender registries. And districts would be prohibited from knowingly unloading sex abusers on other schools—a practice known as “pass the trash.”