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Lawmakers propose school background checks for existing employees following Call 6 investigation

Posted at 8:00 PM, Sep 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 20:00:29-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- State lawmakers are recommending numerous legislative changes aimed at reducing sexual misconduct among educators in schools.

The proposal, approved Tuesday by the Interim Study Committee on Education, follows a Call 6 Investigation into convicted felons and sex offenders found holding valid teaching licenses.  

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.

CALL 6 | Glenda Ritz responds to convicted felons with teaching licenses

The proposal would instead require the court and/or judge to immediately notify IDOE when a teacher is convicted, rather than relying on the prosecutor to remember to report the information.

“I think a lot of these are common sense,” State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) told Call 6 Investigates.

Among the recommendations proposed for the 2017 legislative session:

  • An educator convicted of child molestation, child seduction, child solicitation, sexual misconduct with a minor and other offenses listed in Indiana Code should have their educator’s license revoked upon conviction. Upon reversal of a conviction, the Indiana Department of Education could reinstate a license.
  • A school employee must have a national background check every five years. Current school employees will be rechecked over the next five years with 20 percent being selected annually.
  • If an educator is convicted of a crime involving a minor, but receives a reduced conviction as part of a plea agreement, then the educator must also surrender their teacher’s license as part of the plea agreement.
  • The Department of Child Services should inform a school if one of its employees or volunteers is the subject of a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect that occurs outside of the school.
  • Schools should be required to check a future employee’s references.
  • A school employee’s background check must be completed before their first day of work in a school.

“Students need to feel and be safe in the place they learn,” said Merritt. “I hope these recommendations will lead to legislation to prevent predators from slipping through the cracks and gaining access into our school systems. Parents and students have to be confident that school is a safe place, and through these recommendations, I believe we are taking a step in the right direction

GALLERY | Indiana educators accused of misconduct with minors | 40k background checks performed for Indiana schools each year

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

You can report suspected child abuse to the state hotline at 1-800-800-5556.