Protecting Children Should Trump Politics

A harrowing study shows that sexual misconduct by teachers is becoming more prevalent in the commonwealth. Since January, there have been 24 reported cases of sexual abuse by Pennsylvania teachers. Only one state has seen more incidents than Pennsylvania in 2014, according to the Houston-based Drive West Communications.

Megan Harris of has more appalling details of misconduct and abuse.

A Tribune-Review analysis of disciplinary actions from 2004 to 2014 found they more than quadrupled in 10 years. At least one-third of all cases resulted in quiet resignations not immediately reported to the public. Since 2004, at least 332 teachers voluntarily surrendered teaching licenses before a state commission could pursue disciplinary action.

Of course, the vast majority of teachers are committed to the well-being of their students. 

But these findings are alarming—especially when coupled with an outrageous loophole in state law allowing accused teachers to quietly resign and relocate without having to inform their new district of the alleged abuse. Within the education community, this is known as “passing the trash”—moving staff to a different city in order to avoid lawsuits, criticism, and above all else, justice.

Take a moment to consider what this means. Teachers who sexually abuse or have been otherwise accused of harming children are permitted to resign or temporarily walk away from the classroom. In some cases, these individuals eventually reclaim a teaching position.

It’s almost impossible to comprehend.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed SB 46, sponsored by Sen. Anthony Williams of Philadelphia, to address this unconscionable oversight, but the bill awaits action in the House. The legislation would provide for more thorough background checks and put an end to “confidentiality agreements” that prevent school districts from disclosing whether an applicant was previously investigated for wrongdoing.

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania cosponsored similar legislation at the federal level.

If you thought this could be a rare issue where unions, taxpayers, and families can agree, you’d be wrong. As of late 2013, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) were neutral on SB 46. Neutral.

For the PSEA, “neutral” is actually an improvement from a 2012 hearing on similar legislation, where they testified in opposition to the bill.

On most political issues, there are reasonable arguments to be made for either side.

But this is not any political issue. This is about keeping child predators out of schools. It should be a no-brainer for lawmakers in Harrisburg.