Governor Northam has just signed new laws to help protect students from sexual predators in the classroom.
State law already requires child protective services to report when a teacher is found to have abused a child, but there is a loophole: an investigation by NBC4 in Washington, D.C. revealed an Arlington area teacher quit his job while he was under investigation, so it wasn't reported - he landed a new job in a Maryland school.
These new laws aim to fix that.
The NBC4 investigation showed Arlington County Child Protective Services determined a former school teacher had sexually abused a girl but did not notify the school district or the State Department of Education.
Senator Barbara Favola (D - Arlington County) sponsored one of the new bills.
"The information was not available throughout the school system, and this teacher ended up being hired by a school system," said Favola.
The NBC4 investigation showed that since the teacher quit his Arlington job, the findings were not reported to the school district. Therefore, his teaching license was not challenged and he landed a new job in a Maryland school, which told NBC4 it never learned about the allegations until three years later. The teacher has denied the allegations.
"We want our children to be safe," said Favola. "We have to ensure that individuals in our school systems are not individuals who are going to abuse our kids."
Legislators drafted, debated and overwhelmingly passed two new laws to help stop the mistake from happening again.
"The goal of these bills was to keep our school systems informed all the way up to the superintendent at the state level, so we're aware if teachers are under an investigation," said Favola.
The new laws require child protective services agencies to notify school districts and the State Department of Education if they find a school employee engaged in child abuse - even if the employee has left the job.
Delegate David Bulova (D-Fairfax County) also sponsored one of the bills.
"For the families, for the students, this is really important," said Bulova. "We need to make sure we are learning from these loopholes, that we are tightening our laws and regulations so that it doesn't happen again."
Child safety advocates say these steps will help protect children in Virginia and other states, where bad actors may cross state lines to avoid detection and find teaching jobs there.
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