Toomey’s bill would fight sexual abuse in schools

Although many would like to, it is hard to forget Jerry Sandusky's crimes against children.

However, beyond the high-profile cases, U.S. Department of Human Services statistics show a child is abused every 10 seconds in America.

Senator Pat Toomey, Attorney General Kathleen Kane, and Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico met at PinnacleHealth System's Children's Resource Center in Harrisburg on Friday to discuss how best to protect children.

Kane expressed her fears as a mother of two boys who attend school most of the day between classes and extracurricular activities.

“I know that some days my kids are in school 12 hours,” Kane said. “The teachers and everyone else in that school sometimes see them more than I do. I want to make sure that they are the safest that they can be in those schools.”

Toomey said there is nothing more important than protecting children everywhere. He touted The Protecting Students From Sexual And Violent Predators Act, a bill he is co-sponsoring with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).

Toomey said the bill, which already passed the House of Representatives, should reach the Senate next week. It would require schools to use the same unified criminal background check on a periodical basis.

The Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative branch, released a report Thursday that exposes the need for federal agencies to crack down on child abuse in America's schools. The report pointed out only 46 states have some form of criminal background check requirement, yet not all use the same method. Toomey's bill would streamline the process.

The GOA revealed only 43 states require districts to report allegations of student sex abuse to law enforcement. Toomey's bill would require all schools to alert authorities, and would increase punishments and fines for failure to report.

Toomey's bill would also ban a practice where teachers accused of abuse are terminated or allowed to resign but are not reported to law enforcement, allowing them to quietly move
to another school district.

“There's a strict prohibition against what we call passing the trash,” Toomey said. “The idea that you get rid of your problem and make it someone else's problem is a terrible idea.”

Toomey's bill would require schools to alert
authorities if a convicted child molester applies for a job. He said fines levied for the crime would help fund child advocacy centers and groups.

Currently, the GAO shows only 18 states require mandatory sexual misconduct training for school employees.

“I really can't answer for states that haven't addressed this,” Toomey said. “I don't know why you could, in this day and age, not have this legislation.”

Pennsylvania Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) is leading a similar bill, the Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation Act, in the state legislature.

Kane and Marsico agreed it is time for Pennsylvania to step up and protect students.


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