H.R. 2083: The Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act of 2013
Throughout the country, students’ safety has been compromised by the prevalence of sex offenders who work in schools, according to Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigations. The GAO’s investigations highlighted a wide range of cases in numerous states where convicted sex offenders working in schools had previously targeted children. The GAO found that inconsistent state laws and regulations that do not require comprehensive background checks for all adults who have contact with children in schools led to some school districts unknowingly hiring offenders. In other cases, GAO found that districts knowingly passed a potential predator to another school district, allowing the offender to resign instead of reporting him. The significant differences in the ways schools screen prospective employees lead to gaps in student protection. Children’s safety in schools should not depend on where a child resides; therefore, a comprehensive background check of school employees and certain contractors is necessary.
We owe it to our children and their families, and to the honorable school officials who follow the rules, to ensure that violent adults do not have access to students in our public schools. Parents have a right to expect that their children are safe in schools and schools have an obligation to fulfill that promise.
The Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act would support student safety in public schools by:
- Creating consistency across states in background check policy by requiring comprehensive criminal history background checks for any school employee, applicant for school employment, and school contractor with unsupervised access to students, using state criminal and child abuse registries and the FBI fingerprint database;
- Prohibiting public schools from hiring or retaining anyone who has been convicted of certain violent crimes, including crimes against children, crimes involving rape or sexual assault and child pornography;
- Prohibiting districts or states from knowingly transferring employees who have engaged in sexual misconduct with a student;
- Requiring that school districts periodically repeat or update background checks for all covered employees or contractors;
- Allowing for reasonable appeals to ensure that the screening of employees and job applicants is performed correctly, and allow employees and applicants to establish employment eligibility if the check was inaccurate or incomplete; and
- Allowing school districts to share recent background check results with other districts that are considering the same employee.