Yesterday, President Obama signed the education bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which includes an extraordinary measure to protect students from sexual predators in federally funded schools. Passing the Trash, the all too common practice of aiding and abetting educators who are allowed to quietly resign amidst allegations of sexual misconduct against pupils and gain employment in another school, will no longer be lawfully tolerated. This victory for students in K-12 schools has been a battle fought for decades by S.E.S.A.M.E. leaders. Today brings a sigh of relief, renewed hope for the work that remains and immense gratitude to Senator Pat Toomey and Senator Joe Manchin III for their unfettered commitment to safeguard America’s school children.
Our resolve is bolstered as we continue efforts to rid our schools of those who seek to betray and abuse. While we celebrate today’s victory, we’re somewhat disappointed that a critical portion of Sen. Toomey’s stand-alone bill was left on the cutting room floor. The mandate for all states to conduct, comprehensive and uniform background checks for all school personnel, contractors and volunteers was not included in the ESEA. Incredulously, a handful of states do not conduct background checks on school employees, at all. State background checks vary widely: some states only check criminal histories in their state alone while others cross-check their state and surrounding state histories, and still others thoroughly check state and national databases. The latter is what S.E.S.A.M.E. proposes to be established as the national standard. It is inconceivable that adults placed in school settings with impressionable, malleable and vulnerable children are not thoroughly vetted to be deemed fit to serve in such a position of community trust. As Sen. Toomey remains steadfast in his commitment to pursue this essential measure of protection, we pledge our support for his continued efforts to protect his children, your children and our children.
Passing the trash has left schools from coast-to-coast with a pool of mobile molesters who remain unidentified until they strike again and harm another child. With the funding of Erin’s Law, which is also a pearl woven into the ESEA, more children will be afforded prevention education that will promote recognition of dangerous behavior and courage to tell. While this is a great step forward, it is a baby step because it puts an overwhelming responsibility on children to stop the predators in their midst. Grooming; the meticulous, premeditated methods predators use to gain physical access to children are subtle and highly visible to the trained bystander. Grooming is a form of luring and must be defined as a reportable criminal offense just like it is in internet crimes against children laws. Training of all adult stakeholders; parents, faculty, volunteers and ancillary staff to recognize and report grooming is the key to intercepting physical sexual abuse. Training for all educators that includes maintaining proper boundaries, self-assessment of boundary violations and treatment programs for educators at risk of offending must accompany child prevention education. 100% of educator sexual misconduct is perpetrated by adults. Ending this predation requires training adults to “spot it and stop it.” Our recent victory in Pennsylvania with the passage of the S.E.S.A.M.E. bill is a model we hope all states will adopt to ban Passing the Trash, define grooming as a reportable offense and mandate annual training.
Senator Toomey, Congratulations and Thank You for our victory today! When we heard you mention us by name in your speech on the Senate floor, a flood of emotions poured out, not just for ourselves, but for the many victims and adult survivors of educator sexual abuse for whom the battle was won.
After twenty years of speaking out against passing the trash, an end to this abhorrent practice has come. We are so honored and grateful to have worked the past several years with Pennsylvania’s Representatives Mike Fitzpatrick, Patrick Meehan, West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin, III and you on this monumental achievement to protect students from sexual predators. The thrill of VICTORY is truly a gift this holiday season.
Email note from Dimple Gupta, General Counsel to Senator Pat Toomey, to Terri Miller and John Seryak 12-8-15:
"I wanted to email you two personally to let you know that today, Congress is expected to pass the larger education bill which includes Senator Toomey’s ban on “passing the trash” and send the bill to the President’s desk.
President Obama said that he will sign the bill.
I cannot thank you both enough. Without brave individuals like you—willing to speak up and hold elected officials accountable—we never could have gotten this provision enacted.
We took on dozens of well-funded special interest groups and overcame opposition from both Democrats and Republicans to get this done.
Office of Senator Pat Toomey