|The Education Committee voted unanimously Thursday to support a late-filed bill that would require school districts to notify the Department of Education when they start and complete investigations of staff around alleged physical and emotional abuse and inappropriate behavior with students, as well as problems with drug and alcohol use.
The bill, L.D. 1924, An Act to Improve Information Sharing Relating to Investigations of Educators, also would require the DOE to provide the same information to school districts when it initiates a similar investigation. All such communication would be confidential.
The concern is the DOE, which is the certifying agent for school personnel, doesn’t always know what’s happening in the districts around staff investigations. Districts also are not made aware of what the DOE knows from various sources, including reports it might receive from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The scope of the bill was initially viewed as too far-reaching because the types of investigations that had to be reported were not defined.
The DOE offered an amendment during the hearing that specified the investigation could reasonably be expected to affect a person’s employment and involve allegations of drug and alcohol abuse; emotional abuse; and crossing boundaries, including inappropriate texting, stalking and grooming.
There was some question about whether grooming had a clear definition. The American Bar Association, on its website, offers this definition:
“Sexual grooming is a preparatory process in which a perpetrator gradually gains a person’s or organization’s trust with the intent to be sexually abusive. The victim is usually a child, teen, or vulnerable adult.”
The bill would require notification within 15 days of initiating an investigation by either a district or DOE and notification of finding within 15 business days after the investigation is complete. It is anticipated the time frame on notification of findings will be debated and possibly shortened when the bill is considered by the Legislature on Sept. 13.