A Kentucky bill requiring anyone applying for a teaching position to disclose any past allegations of sexual misconduct received bipartisan support from the state’s House Education Committee.
The policy would require applicants to reveal if they were the subject of any allegations or investigation related to misconduct in the past 12 months or if they resigned or were fired from a previous position because of “abusive conduct.”
“If evidence is found that that teacher did something inappropriate, it needs to be recorded,” said state Representative James Tipton, the House Education Committee chairman, per Fox News. “For the sake of the teachers who might have been falsely accused, that investigation needs to be completed if they are exonerated.”
“We wanted a requirement that these things are followed up with, that they’re not brushed aside,” he said during a committee hearing.
In addition to misconduct disclosures, HB 288 would require individuals applying to teaching positions to undergo state and federal background checks as well as training on appropriate teacher-student interactions every five years.
The policy would make it “illegal for schools to enter into nondisclosure agreements when teachers are found to have abused students,” per WKU. Additionally, school districts and certified private schools would be required to “maintain personnel records of all allegations and investigations of abuse, including when an investigation concludes the allegations were false or unfounded.”
Teaching applicants who fail to meet the disclosure requirement would be deemed ineligible or, if already hired, would be terminated.
The policy proposal follows a reporting series published by The Lexington Herald-Leader in 2022. The outlet examined 194 cases where teachers voluntarily surrendered their teaching licenses or had their licenses revoked or suspended between 2016 and 2021. The Herald-Leader found that 61% of cases, a total of 118, were caused by sexual misconduct. The majority of incidents occurred between male teachers and teenage girls.
Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman told WKYT that the department offered some suggestions about the terms of the bill and is supportive of the effort.
“We feel like there may have been some loopholes that had not been covered previously and believe that some of those have been maybe cleared up with this bill,” said Tatman. “While we’ve recommended that districts ask this question on their applications, we’re not sure if that’s happening.”
“Educator misconduct, sexual misconduct, harms our students and really represents an egregious breach of trust and dishonors the profession, so anything that we can do to firm up any loopholes is something that we would support,” she added.
Kentucky is currently struggling to compensate for a teacher shortage. Last week, the House Education Committee approved HB 319, which would give Kentucky teaching certifications to some out-of-state teachers. The bill would also grant temporary teaching certification to people with real-world experience related to some subjects.