Fitzpatrick Student-Protection Language Strengthens Education Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) took to the House floor this week to urge support for the Student Success Act [H.R. 5], education legislation that includes measures advocated by Fitzpatrick to protect students from teachers or staff known or suspected of sexual misconduct with a minor.
“Last year alone over 450 teachers or school employees across the nation were arrested for misconduct with a child – more than one per day. What’s more, the Department of Education has estimated that nearly 10% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career,” said Fitzpatrick speaking on the floor. “Those numbers should be disturbing to every lawmaker - to every parent and grandparent - in this body.
“In an effort to curb this alarming trend I am proud that the Student Success Act, under debate here today, includes language from my Jeremy Bell Act to strengthen student protection efforts and get serious about who is being hired, and transferred, within our school system.”
The language included in the bill comes from Fitzpatrick’s Jeremy Bell Act which passed as a part of larger legislation twice in the 113th Congress. The measure blocks state or local educational agencies from receiving funds if they facilitate the transfer of an employee they know, or have probable cause to believe, that the employee engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor. Furthermore, the language requires the hiring of employees to be compliant with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act background check requirements.
“As the husband of an educator, I know the overwhelming majority of teachers, educators, school administrators and support staff are amazing, caring individuals committed to the success of their students,” said Fitzpatrick. “It is as much to protect the good work they do, as well as the safety of our children, that we must pass this legislation and take real steps to address this issue.”
Fitzpatrick has been active in the community in garnering support for this important legislative fix, working with local stakeholders and non-profits to draw attention to the issue of sexual predators in schools and advance this common sense solution.
“We have been glad to be able to work with the Congressman on this very important legislation - we’ll be very glad to see this loophole closed. Here in Bucks County we’re talking about 13 school districts and more than 90,000 children who are going to be protected,” said Julie Dugery, Coordinator of Volunteers and Community Outreach for Network of Victims Assistance (NOVA) of Bucks Co. “It’s important that our children not be at risk in a place that really should be their sanctuary – somewhere they spend seven, eight, nine hours a day in a school setting and it’s important for them to be safe there.”
“Currently, no nationwide background check system is in place for school staff, opening up the possibility of convicted predators gaining employment in a school,” writes Jon Adler, national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA). “FLEOA strongly supports this measure as an additional tripwire that could ensnare known predators that could otherwise prey upon our children in the classroom.”
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is serving his fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents Pennsylvania’s 8th district which includes all of Bucks County as well as a portion of Montgomery County. He serves as the Vice Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.