The Iowa House has voted to forbid some of the secrecy surrounding agreements between school district officials and educators who are dismissed for inappropriate conduct with students. Representative Dustin Hite, a Republican from New Sharon, said he’s disappointed in the number of confidentiality agreements in Iowa that let a teacher or coach accused of grooming or abusing students resign — and the allegations aren’t disclosed to prospective employers.
“We don’t need people that are doing this to our kids going from school to school to school,” Hite said.
If the bill becomes law, administrators who fail to report suspicions of abuse could be fined $5000 for a first offense and $10,000 for a second. “All too often I think we’ve seen in the paper or we’ve heard stories from our own communities of administrators failing their students, not reporting what they need to report,” Hite said, “not holding their fellow educators accountable when that’s necessary.”
The bill also requires the state Board of Educational Examiners to keep records of all complaints about licensed educators, even allegations that don’t lead to sanctions. Hite said the board told him last fall it does not keep such records, but earlier this year board officials said they do.
“Quite frankly, I can’t trust whatever they tell me, so we’re going to make sure that they’re going to keep track of those complaints,” Hite said. “(The allegations) are not public, but if they have a bunch of complaints with the same allegations, we’re telling them that they have to go back and look because sometimes when there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
Hite and other lawmakers say “the vast majority” of Iowa teachers are good people and the few who are not give the profession a bad name.
“We need to get the bad actors out of the profession, whether they are an administrator or a teacher,” said Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City who is a retired teacher, “and this is a step in the right direction.”
Republican Representative Garrett Gobble, a teacher in Ankeny, said this is “one of the most consequential” education-related bills of the year.
“This makes sure that no amount of back alley dealing will allow those who would abuse children and betray trust to continue doing so,” Gobble said. “I stand with the good teachers and I won’t waste a single breath defending the bad.”
The bill, which passed the House unanimously, would also make every adult in a school a mandatory reporter of suspected abuse.