For Immediate Release
HARRISBURG – A bill introduced by state Sen. Lloyd K. Smucker (R-13) that would modernize and strengthen the Professional Educator Discipline Act unanimously cleared the Pennsylvania Senate Monday.
The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 34 would help hold educators responsible for any inappropriate contact with students. The legislation would protect students by expanding mandatory reporting requirements for school districts under the Professional Educator Discipline Act to include reports of child abuse and “grooming” behaviors by educators, such as the use of sexually explicit text messages.
“Students need a safe atmosphere to reach their full potential in the classroom,” said Sen. Smucker, who serves as vice-chair of the Senate Education Committee. “This legislation is critical to ensure students are adequately protected from abuse. The bill would allow school districts to err on the side of the student when any inappropriate behavior by a teacher is reported.”
In addition to strengthening reporting requirements, Senate Bill 34 would remove the limitation of the filing period for misconduct complaints. The Professional Educator Discipline Act currently requires victims to come forward with a complaint within five years of reaching 18 years of age.
“It often takes years before victims are ready to confront the abuse, and likewise their abuser, particularly when the perpetrator is a trusted authority figure such as a teacher,” Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis said in support of the legislation last session. “It is simply wrong to have a law that favors educators who harm students and degrade their profession.”
Sen. Smucker drafted SB 34 based on a number of recommendations from the Professional Standards and Practices Commission (PSPC), the body that oversees the professional educator discipline system. During a hearing on the bill last year, PSPC Executive Director Carolyn Angelo voiced her support for the legislation.