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  • CLAIRE LOWE - Staff Writer (Press of Atlantic

New Jersey lawmakers pass bill to strengthen background checks on teachers

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

TRENTON — A bipartisan bill designed to keep child predators out of the state’s schools has been passed unanimously by the Legislature and now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

This measure, part of a four-bill package approved 73-0 on Feb. 15 by the Assembly, was created in response to media reports of students being sexually assaulted by teachers, some of whom had previous accusations against them. Because of nondisclosure agreements, that information was not always shared with new hiring districts.

The bill passed the Senate on Monday 38-0.

“The way things are set up now, predators seem to have free reign to move from school to school and hurt children without any consequence,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey, D-Monmouth, a sponsor of the bill. “Having a review that is meant to reveal these types of accusations can help protect students from these predators.”

The legislation would prohibit schools from entering into termination agreements that preclude them from discussing or reporting information related to an investigation or report of suspected child abuse or sexual misconduct.

It would also require public and nonpublic schools and contracted services to review employment history from the past 20 years of prospective hires to discover allegations of child abuse or sexual misconduct involving children.

“We have a big loophole allowing predator teachers to continue sexually assaulting students simply by changing jobs,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, who also sponsored the bill. “Passing the problem to the next school district is unacceptable.”

The information will not be a public record accessible through an Open Public Records Act request.

Contact: 609-272-7251 Twitter @clairelowe

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