It's that time of year again — summer is winding down and parents across the country have started shopping for backpacks and school supplies. Our kids will be going back to school soon.
But will they be safe at school?
Since Jan. 1, 275 teachers have been arrested across America for sexual misconduct with children. That is more than one for each day of the year. And 17 of those were Pennsylvania teachers.
Arrests only occur when we know about the charges and have the evidence to prosecute. There are other cases, of course, and we know of some instances where school officials learned of sexual abuse by a teacher and they not only failed to report it, but also helped the predator be quietly reassigned.
It's called "passing the trash."
It is all too common, and it cost 12 year-old Jeremy Bell his life. A school in Delaware County, Pa., quietly dismissed a teacher for molesting several children. But instead of acting to stop the predator, the school helped him land a new job in West Virginia, where he eventually sexually assaulted and murdered Jeremy Bell.
Stories of child abuse by educators are horrifying and heartbreaking: a 13-year-old girl raped 30 times by her teacher; a special-needs young boy assaulted by a teacher's aide who was supposed to be leading him to the boys' room; a kindergarten girl kept after class, so her teacher could sexually assault her; and numerous teachers arrested for possessing child pornography.
As the father of three young children, I cannot imagine the pain of a parent whose child has been sexually abused. As a U.S. senator, I have a responsibility to work to make America's classrooms as safe as possible.
That's why I introduced the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. My bipartisan bill requires any state receiving federal funds to perform background checks on all employees and contractors — new hires and existing employees — who have access to children. The background checks must be repeated regularly, to prevent anyone from slipping through the cracks. And my bill would ban the horrifying practice of passing the trash – letting a child predator quietly resign and move along to a new school.
The Senate has yet to pass my legislation to make our schools safer. And as each day passes with more instances of sexual misconduct between educators and children, this delay is becoming all the more unacceptable. After all, the House of Representatives passed this proposal with unanimous support last year.
Such broad support in the House of Representatives does not surprise Pennsylvanians when I discuss my proposal with them. Protecting kids from sexual misconduct is not a partisan issue.
It is simply common sense.
So it is time for the Senate to act. It is time we do the right thing for our children. Let's pass legislation that will help keep dangerous child predators out of our schools.
— Sen. Pat Toomey is a Republican from Pennsylvania.