An effort to get teachers who sexually abuse students out of the classroom receives preliminary approval in the House, though some representatives wonder whether the bill skirts due process.

Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) said she took action in wake of an Associated Press series ranking Missouri as having the 11th worst record of educators charged with sexual misconduct. During House floor debate, Cunningham told colleagues about a former teacher, principal and superintendent who bounced among nearly ten school districts before finally agreeing to resign. More than a dozen students had lodged complaints against him. The district accepted the resignation and provided him with a $16,000 severance package. It promised not to disclose the reason for his resignation. The Department of Secondary and Elementary Education revoked his license after 20 years in the public schools.

HB 1314 would require school districts to report allegations of sexual misconduct to the Children’s Division of the Department of Social Services. Unsubstantiated and unresolved findings must be reported to the Child Abuse Registry for its internal records. That provision sparked objections during House floor debate.

Rep. Michael Brown (D-Kansas City) questioned that provision, "If they’re unsubstantiated, why do they need to be put on a registry?"

Cunningham responded that just because the case was found to be unsubstantiated doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It just means that a preponderance of evidence was not found.

The bill adds sexual misconduct in the second and third degree and sexual contact with a student on school property to the list of offenses that could cost a teacher his or her license. Criminal background checks, including registering with the Family Safety Care Registry, would be required of teachers. The bill would also remove the 20-year statute of limitation for the prosecution of a sexual offense against a person 18 years old or younger.

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