Saland Bill Adds More Protections For Students Against Abuse

Stephen M. Saland

March 19, 2008

Senator Steve Saland (R,I,C Poughkeepsie) today announced his bill, S.5669A, which expands the protections for children against abuse in educational settings, has passed the Senate.

In a landmark law authored by Senator Saland in 2000, any allegation made by a student that he or she was physically or sexually abused by a school employee or volunteer had to be immediately reported by the school to law enforcement authorities. It also mandated criminal history background checks on all prospective school employees.

This bill expands upon that law in two important ways. First it provides that sexual abuse committed by a child upon another child on school grounds must be immediately reported to law enforcement. Current law only requires employee physical or sexual abuse against a student be immediately reported. Second, it provides the same stringent criminal history background check standards for screening bus drivers and attendants as those applied to other school employees. Under current law, an applicant could obtain a school bus drivers license as little as five years after being released from incarceration for certain sex crimes, and other felonies such as 1st degree robbery, criminally negligent homicide and 2nd degree manslaughter.

"There is no reason to treat sexual abuse of a child on school grounds differently when the perpetrator is a student and not a school employee. Law enforcement must be brought in to investigate as soon as possible," said Senator Saland. "Additionally, school bus drivers and attendants should undergo the same stringent background checks as other school employees -- to do any less puts our children at an unacceptable risk," Saland concluded.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly for consideration.