Education Committee to Consider Legislation Closing Loopholes on Teacher Background Checks

The Connecticut legislature’s Committee on Education will hold a public hearing today to consider Raised Bill 6326, An Act Concerning the Response of School Districts and The Departments of Education and Children and Families to reports of Child Abuse and Neglect. If passed, the bill would implement the recommendations of the Child Advocate’s report, Protecting Our Children: Improving Protections For Children When Allegations Are Made That School System Personnel Abused and/or Neglected Children. The report detailed the results of an extensive investigation into the response of local school districts, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the State Department of Education when school employees abuse or neglect children. Attorney Ghio, who led the investigation for the Office of the Child Advocate, strongly supports this legislation and believes it will help protect children from would-be predators.

The investigation, which spanned over four years and the entire state of Connecticut, found major flaws in the systems designed to protect children from abuse and neglect by school employees. Most significantly, the investigation revealed:

The State Department of Education does not check of the DCF Child Abuse and Neglect Registry to determine if a person has been found to have abused or neglected a child when licensing teachers, school administrators, and others.
Only a tiny handful of school districts check the DCF Child Abuse and Neglect Registry to determine if a person applying for employment has been found to have abused or neglected a child.
School employees do not always report to DCF suspicion that another school employee has abused and neglected a child, even though they are legally required to do so by mandated reporting laws.
DCF does not have a system in place to document and address failures by mandated reporters to make timely reports.
When abuse or neglect by school employees is reported to DCF, investigations are not always adequate.
When school employees are found by DCF to have abused or neglected children, the findings are not always reported to the State Department of Education and the individuals may remain employed in the same district, move within district, or go to other school districts.
HB 6326 incorporates the recommendations of the report to close these gaps by requiring the State Department of Education to conduct DCF background checks prior to issuing or renewing certificates, authorizations, or permits and by requiring local school districts to conduct such checks prior to hiring. Further implementing the recommendations of the report, HB 6326 will strengthen mandated reporter policies and training, require school districts to provide information to DCF when the agency is investigating allegations involving school employees, require school districts to maintain records of allegations of abuse or neglect, and ensure that the Commissioner of DCF notifies the SDE when a teacher or school administrator abuses or neglects a student or has been placed on the DCF child abuse and neglect registry.

If you support this legislation, contact your State Representative or Senator.

If you believe a child is being abused or neglected by a school employee, or any other adult, you should report the abuse to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) by calling 1-800-842-2288 (TDD: 1-800-624-5518). For more information on reporting child abuse and neglect, visit DCF’s “Q &A About Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect.”