Series of Tennessee bills aims to prevent sexual misconduct between teachers, students

(MGN Online)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - A series of bills filed in Tennessee are aiming to prevent sexual misconduct between teachers and their students.

The move comes after an audit from the State Comptroller’s Office that said Tennessee could improve its policies. There have been several instances of sexual misconduct in the state and an audit shows there is room for improvements, and USA Today gave the Volunteer State an “F” grade following a nationwide investigation into sexual misconduct in schools.

Tennessee Bills regarding sexual misconduct between teachers & students

  • Senate Bill 2014 which ensures that background checks are conducted to identify sexual predators before a teacher license is issued and that reports are done on an ongoing basis for those who work with children. Presently, school districts require an initial background check before hiring.
  • Senate Bill 2015 which prohibits a Local Education Agency (LEA) from entering into a non-disclosure agreement with a teacher that would prevent other school districts from knowing about sexual misconduct. It also allows districts to access information about the previous employment of a teacher with another school district.
  • Senate Bill 2013 which updates the state’s Teacher Code of Ethics regarding inappropriate teacher-student relationships, including engaging in sexual behavior with students or furnishing them alcohol or drugs.
  • Senate Bill 2011 which grants the State Board of Education’s authority to reprimand school directors for not reporting instances of misconduct and clarifies the board’s authority to reprimand educators for violating the Teacher Code of Ethics.
  • Senate Bill 2012 which calls for the State Board of Education to post all final teacher disciplinary action on its website to allow school districts, as well as out-of-state entities responsible for the licensing and hiring of Tennessee educators, to access information regarding the final disciplinary action of an individual’s license case. It also requires final licensure action be reported to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) database for the same purpose.

The bills are being sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), Reginald Tate (D-Memphis), Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol).

"Tennessee laws are pretty vague when it comes to defining educator misconduct," Tara Bergfield of the State Comptroller's Officers previously said in an interview.

In 2016, FOX 17 News uncovered a loophole that allowed former Hunter’s Lane High School Teacher David Shepard to move between districts despite having his license suspended after an arrest in a prostitution sting.

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