HARRISBURG â€“ A bill introduced by state Sen. Lloyd K. Smucker (R-13) strengthening and modernizing the Professional Educator Discipline Act was sent to the desk of Gov. Tom Corbett Wednesday to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 34, which earned unanimous passage from the Pennsylvania House and Senate chambers, holds educators responsible for inappropriate contact with students. The legislation protects students by expanding mandatory reporting requirements for school districts under the Professional Educator Discipline Act to include reports of child abuse and “grooming” behaviors by educators, such as the use of sexually explicit text messages.
“The bipartisan passage of this bill demonstrates the Legislatureâ€™s commitment to safeguarding the children who attend our public schools,â€? said Sen. Smucker, who serves as vice-chair of the Senate Education Committee. â€śParents should feel confident their children are in safe hands when they send them to school, and this bill provides additional protections to ensure they do.â€?
In addition to strengthening reporting requirements, Senate Bill 34 lifts the limitation of the filing period for misconduct complaints and removes the requirement that victims come forward with a complaint within five years of reaching the age of 18. Education officials have said it often takes years before victims are ready to confront the abuse, and likewise their abuser, particularly when the perpetrator is a trusted authority figure such as a teacher.
â€śSchool districts will find it much easier to fully investigate and follow through on corrective action when any inappropriate behavior by a teacher is reported,” Smucker said.
The measure also amends the Professional Educator Discipline Act to remove the confidentiality of public disciplinary actions after all appeals have been exhausted.
â€śWhen inappropriate conduct occurs and disciplinary action is taken and finalized, the public should know about it,â€? Smucker said. â€śThis returns credibility to the school district and sends a message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.â€?
Smucker became interested in reforming the law after learning about recommendations made by the Professional Standards and Practices Commission (PSPC), the body that oversees the professional educator discipline system.