Education Advocates Voice Support for Smucker's Educator Discipline Amendments
HARRISBURG – Education Secretary Ron Tomalis and other education officials and advocates voiced strong support at a Senate Education Committee hearing this morning for legislation that would modernize the Professional Educator Discipline Act.
Senate Bill 1459, introduced by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-13), would help hold educators responsible for any inappropriate contact with students. The legislation would protect students by expanding mandatory reporting requirements for school districts under the Professional Educator Discipline Act to include reports of child abuse and "grooming" behaviors by educators, such as the use of sexually explicit text messages.
"Students need a safe atmosphere to reach their full potential in the classroom. These amendments are critical to ensure students are adequately protected from abuse," Smucker said. "This legislation would allow school districts to err on the side of the student when any inappropriate behavior by a teacher is reported."
In addition to strengthening reporting requirements, Senate Bill 1459 would remove the limitation of the filing period for misconduct complaints. The Professional Educator Discipline Act currently requires victims to come forward with a complaint within five years of reaching 18 years of age.
"It often takes years before victims are ready to confront the abuse, and likewise their abuser, particularly when the perpetrator is a trusted authority figure such as a teacher," Tomalis said. "It is simply wrong to have a law that favors educators who harm students and degrade their profession. I would like to thank Senator Smucker for his leadership on this issue and for introducing Senate Bill 1459."
Senate Bill 1459 was drafted based on a number of recommendations from the Professional Standards and Practices Commission (PSPC), the body that oversees the professional educator discipline system. PSPC Executive Director Carolyn Angelo testified in support of Senate Bill 1459 during the hearing.