State lawmakers want tougher background screening policies to prevent predators from obtaining employment at MO schools.
The School Turnaround Act
Missouri introduced House Bill 604 (HB604), which is dedicated to protecting students from predators. This came shortly after several horrifying instances of sexual abuse at schools within the state. Sadly, this also coincides with statistics that have been collected throughout the country.
A national organization called Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation (SESAME) is dedicated to preventing abuse by educators and other school employees. They conducted research and determined that 7% of children in grades Eight through Eleven have reported some form of sexual contact with an adult who works at a school. SESAME further learned that when additional crimes are included, such as showing pornography to children, that figure jumps to 10%.
HB604 is known as the School Turnaround Act. It includes a few key changes to help protect students in the Show-Me State.
Thorough Screening For Employees From Other MO Schools
In the past, workers in Missouri could easily move from one school to the next. When someone went to a new location, that school was not required to thoroughly research the candidate’s history. To some, this process was referred to as “passing the trash.”
Allegedly, this system allowed school employees who had charges of sexual misconduct to get a fresh start at new facilities. Thanks to HB604, any substantiated allegation will be readily available to every school in the state. This will help schools weed out people who may exhibit predatory or abusive behavior towards students.
All Volunteers Must Be Screened
Another key component of HB604 is to require background checks for all volunteers. Anyone who wants to volunteer at a MO school will first be required to authorize and pass a background check. The bill provides a list of potential volunteer positions, including but not limited to persons who would:
· Regularly assist in the office or library.
· Mentor or tutor students.
· Coach or supervise a school-sponsored activity.
· Chaperone students on an overnight trip.
Sexual Abuse Training
An equally important part of the School Turnaround Act is to educate school board members on how to spot signs of sexual abuse. This requires training that involves:
· Noting signs of potentially abusive child/adult relationships.
· Establishing trust so young people feel comfortable reporting abuse.
· Going through annual refresher courses.
HB604 was presented to the Governor and awaits his signature.Read the full text.
In the 2020/21 school year, every Missouri district will also be required to offer "Trauma-informed, developmentally-appropriate sexual abuse training to students in all grades not lower than sixth grade." This includes giving students the tools and knowledge they need to recognize abuse, information on how to report abusive actions and resources for students who have been abused.
The Importance Of Screening
Every organization that has employees, volunteers or contractors should always run criminal background checks before allowing anyone to represent them. This is especially true for people who will work with vulnerable populations such as young people. Background checks can reveal if a candidate has violent, sexual or other serious offenses.
When you’re ready to run background checks, please contact us. Our team is highly experienced at producing tailored background screening packages for any position. We are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.