INDIANAPOLIS – State lawmakers are vowing to take action following a Call 6 Investigation into convicted felons and sex offenders found holding valid teaching licenses.
The Interim Study Committee on Education met Monday afternoon to talk about keeping predators out of schools in the first place, how to stop predators from crossing the line and how to improve reporting of incidents once they happen.
Call 6 Investigates found the Indiana Department of Education failed to immediately revoke licenses for teachers convicted of child seduction, and that current law requires county prosecutors to notify IDOE when a teacher is convicted of a serious felony.
Committee chairman Rep. Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) said Monday it is “redundant” for the state to require a license hearing even after an educator’s been criminally convicted.
“That is all the due process that is necessary to immediately suspend a license,” said Behning.
Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) agreed the current license revocation process is too cumbersome.
“It needs to be efficient and it needs to be quick and the public needs to know,” said Merritt. “We have to have the very best people in Indiana with teaching licenses.”
Lawmakers floated the idea of requiring school districts to do national criminal history checks on existing school employees, not just new ones.
“Probably 40 to 50 percent of school employees in Indiana have never had a national background check since it was required in 2009,” said Mike McCarty, CEO of Safe Hiring Solutions, a company that provides background check services to many Indiana school districts.
Merritt said the committee needs to look at such a requirement.
“I have a sincere interest in looking at that,” said Merritt. “Five years is too long (between checks). We need to find some sort of time frame where everybody is rechecked that is employed by our schools.”
Former teacher and committee member, Rep. Terri Jo Austin (D-Anderson) said similar legislation failed in a previous session, in part because it would put school volunteers under the microscope.
“The legislation allowed companies to get into the credit histories of not only educators, but school board members and anybody who would have contact with children, and that made legislators very uncomfortable,” said Austin.
Lawmakers also expressed concern about “passing the trash,” or the passing of problem educators from one school district to the next or even from state to state.
Parvonay Stover, legislative director for the Indiana Department of Child Services, testified Monday that while Indiana school districts entrust them to check for substantiated child abuse and neglect cases against applicants, the agency does not have access to other state’s child protective histories.
“I’m not aware of a national system that would check that,” said Stover.
Legislators also discussed requiring school district to call and gather information on references when someone applies to work with children.
“You have to call and gather the information, you can’t just hire someone,” said Merritt.
Lawmakers expressed frustration at a lack of knowledge among school employees about Indiana law that requires anyone to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
“We need to do everything we can to keep predators out of schools and keep our kids safe,” said Merritt.
One committee member also said schools need to focus on preventing incidents from happening in the first place.
“Sometimes it’s not always the adult that’s the aggressor,” said Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) “Sometimes students are the aggressors. Things like, ‘oh you have pretty eyes, or I like your car’ are triggers to get people drawn into situations.”
The committee meets against on August 15, and at that time will have the opportunity to ask questions of the Indiana Department of Education.
Sexual misconduct among teachers has made headlines recently in light of a slew of scandals statewide.
Kisha Nuckols and Shana Taylor, both criminally charged with child seduction, still have valid licenses with the state of Indiana, records show.
In Indiana, you need a license if you have ongoing and regular contact with children in a public school district.
Nuckols served as a teacher’s aide and substitute teacher in the Mt. Vernon school district, and Taylor worked as a counselor in Indianapolis Public Schools.
MORE | Mt. Vernon Schools teacher's aide accused of child seduction | Principal charged with failure to immediately report child abuse allegations | Why did Mt. Vernon wait 17 days to report alleged abuse? | IPS counselor charged with child seduction | IPS officials waited 6 days to report alleged child sex abuse
When Call 6 Investigates checked in May, IDOE did not immediately revoke licenses for Timothy Guilfoy, Michael Douce, and Kellen Hubert-- all three are Indiana teachers convicted of child seduction.
Timothy Guilfoy, who was caught having sex with a student, pleaded guilty in Marion County in 2014 to two counts of felony child seduction.
Former Noblesville High School teacher Michael Douce pleaded guilty in Hamilton County in August 2015 to two counts of child seduction for inappropriate relationships with two female students.
Former Harrison County Indiana teacher Kellen Hubert was convicted in July 2015 of child seduction.
You can report suspected child abuse to the state hotline at 1-800-800-5556.