Mechanicsburg, PA â€“ Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday signed into law legislation sponsored by state Sen. Lloyd K. Smucker (R-13) that will protect children from inappropriate teacher contact.
Senate Bill 34, which earned unanimous passage from the Pennsylvania House and Senate chambers before heading to the governor, protects students by expanding mandatory reporting requirements for school districts to include reports of child abuse and “grooming” behaviors by educators, such as the use of sexually explicit text messages.
SB 34 is scheduled to take effect in 60 days.
â€śParents should never have to worry about sending their children to school in the morning,â€? Smucker said Wednesday. â€śThe governorâ€™s signature sends a clear message to parents, teachers and taxpayers that our Commonwealth places the highest priority on the safety and security of the children attending our public schools. I thank Gov. Corbett for his support in updating this law.â€?
Besides strengthening the actâ€™s reporting requirements, SB 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 say victims often cannot cope with the idea of confronting the abuse or the abuser for years into their adulthood, particularly when the perpetrator is a trusted authority figure such as a teacher.
â€śThe reforms implemented in this law should make it much easier for school districts to fully investigate allegations of inappropriate behavior by a teacher and take action when necessary,â€? 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€śThe public needs to know when an educator has been disciplined for inappropriate conduct,â€? Smucker said. â€śIf parents are to have faith in the school system, school districts must have the opportunity to publicly address wrongdoing and describe the corrective action taken.â€?
Smucker worked on SB 34 in coordination with the Professional Standards and Practices Commission (PSPC), the body that oversees the professional educator discipline system, after learning about recommendations the commission made in 2012.