Protecting students from sexual abuse and sexual misconduct in schools, the Assembly Education Committee approved an eight-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Raj Mukherji and Nicholas Chiaravalloti on Monday.
“Now more than ever, it is imperative that we are doing everything we can in New Jersey to protect our students from sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “This package of bills is sending a message to anyone employed by a school district that this type of behavior will not be tolerated under any circumstance and the legislature is taking action to solidify that.”
“Anyone can be subject to sexual assault or harassment, no matter their age,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The common goal of all of these bills is to lay out stricter hiring practices along with clear reporting procedures to create school systems in which sexual misconduct is no longer a fear among students.”
The bills include:
· A-850 (Lampitt) – Requires that sexual abuse against a child be reported to law enforcement officials.
· A-4403 (Lampitt/Vainieri Huttle) – Establishes task force within the Department of Education to prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of children.
· A-4405 (Lampitt) – Mandates that all candidates for teaching certifications participate in child abuse and sexual abuse training.
· A-4406 (Lampitt) – Mandates all new Department of Education arbitrators receive training on conduct unbecoming an employee including, but not limited to, issues related to allegations of sexual assault and child abuse.
· A-4407 (Lampitt) – Requires the Department of Education to annually collect data from schools on certain teacher misconduct relating to sexual abuse or harassment to report to the legislature.
· A-4408 (Lampitt) – Requires school districts to notify the State Board of Examiners when a teaching staff member fails to report child abuse if the report warrants the revocation or suspension of his certificate.
· A-4199 (Lampitt) – Requires the Attorney General to develop protocol for retaining footage from school surveillance systems.
Finally, the bill package includes:
· A-4404/A-1909 (Mukherji/Lampitt/Chiaravalloti/Vainieri Huttle) – Provides that certain people who commit acts of sexual penetration or sexual contact with students who are at least 18 but less than 22 years old are guilty of sexual assault or criminal sexual contact.
“We see countless cases of inappropriate student-teacher relationships nowadays, perhaps due to the fact that technology and social media have bridged the personal space that once existed between students and teachers,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Regardless, even when a high school student reaches the age of 18, a teacher’s supervisory and disciplinary power makes any sexual relationship inherently coercive and inappropriate. This bill will make that explicitly clear.”
“The number of instances between teenagers and teachers appears to be increasing,” said Chiaravalloti (D- Hudson). “Teachers, who are authority figures, need to understand that the power imbalance supersedes any ‘consent’ received by students and that such relations are inappropriate. We need to close this loophole to make that message clear.”