Senate Unanimously Approves New Legislation To Combat Cases Of Teacher-student Sexual Misconduct

Martin J. Golden

June 21, 2007

The New York State Senate has voted to approve legislation (S.6296), sponsored by Senator Martin Golden (R-C, Brooklyn) to help combat the sexual abuse of students in schools across the State. The bill would require the immediate decertification of teachers following a conviction for a serious crime against a child, and also includes a provision that will require schools to contact both the parents of an alleged child victim, as well as law enforcement, whenever a report of abuse is made.

"The relationship between a teacher and a student is one that should be based on trust, responsibility and professionalism, and when that trust is violated the impact on young students can be devastating," said Senator Golden, Chair of the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices. "This legislation will send a loud and clear message that we will not tolerate the sexual abuse of students in New York State."

"Parents have a right to know if an allegation has been made regarding their son or daughter being abused by a school employee. Administrators should no longer have the discretion to decide which cases to report to parents and law enforcement," said Golden.

In addition to the immediate decertification of teachers upon conviction of a serious crime against a child, and the provision requiring schools to contact parents and law enforcement when a report of abuse is made, the Senate bill would also require better training concerning the issue of child abuse in a school setting.

Earlier in the Legislative Session, the Senate voted to approve legislation to address a number of concerns about sexual misconduct involving school employees. These include the following:

ยท S.189, sponsored by Senator William Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), which requires the suspension of pay for tenured teachers upon the conviction of a felony for possessing certain child sexual performance materials or promotion thereof.

"As protectors and advocates of children, teachers and all school employees should have the utmost moral character," Senator Larkin said. "Anyone convicted of a crime, especially a felony that relates to possessing obscene sexual material or promoting sexual performance by a child, should be nowhere near a classroom. This bill would suspend convicted felons without pay. It also adds more crimes specific to sexual abuse to the list of reasons for dismissing a teacher or administrator."

"A student looking for a teacher recommendation for college, for example, may find herself in a position of being manipulated into engaging in sexual activities," Senator Little said. "If the student has reached the age of consent, there is no criminal penalty for sexual conduct, but clearly this is wrong. Teachers and other school officials are in positions of authority and trust. If they take advantage of these kinds of situations, they should be punished."

The bills were sent to the Assembly.