Senate Education Committee to discuss employee misconduct bills
Monday, March 25, 2019
Sen. Rob Wagner, a Lake Oswego School Board member, is chair of the Senate Education Committee. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
A trio of bills related to school employee sexual misconduct toward students will be heard Monday, March 25, in the Senate Education Committee.
Senate Bills 155, 156 and 960 address a major OSBA legislative priority this session.
This conduct has no place in our schools, and OSBA, along with other education stakeholders, has been working for the better part of a year to make significant policy changes to protect our students. It is crucial that the Legislature address this topic this session.
OSBA, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon School Employees Association, other education stakeholders and legislators have been meeting since early 2018 to create these bills.
Unfortunately, these bills are necessary because the scourge of inappropriate conduct toward students in our schools persists. The vast majority of employees are professional and treat students appropriately, but as anyone with access to Google or a local newspaper can attest, these incidents still occur. The damage done to students, parents and communities by these incidents is incalculable.
The bills all address inappropriate employee conduct toward students but deal with different parts of statute.
SB 155 would change definitions to make it easier for employers to address alleged misconduct by an employee and to bring Oregon’s laws into line with federal laws. Some Oregon statutes conflict with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
SB 156 would direct the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission to shorten turnaround time for investigations.
SB 960 would change the way these types of cases are handled by agencies and districts. The bill’s changes include expanded responsibility for the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Department of Education, as well as expanded registration for all school employees.
All stakeholders are working tirelessly to move the bills forward in a form that will protect students. Districts need to be able to act quickly and decisively if an employee is suspected of inappropriate conduct. Employee rights must be protected but not at the expense of student safety. And investigations must be of the best quality.
These bills have all been heavily amended, and more revisions will probably follow because this is complicated and challenging. But it is work that we must get done this session.