Gov. Murphy Signs Bill to Protect N.J. Kids in Schools
Bill will close hiring loophole, keeping sexual abusers out of school
April 11, 2018 | Trenton, N.J. – Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill into law which will better protect students in New Jersey schools from sexual abuse.
The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) and Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey (PCANJ) led the advocacy efforts for S414/A3381, which prohibits a school district, charter school, or contracted service provider holding a contract with a school district or charter school from employing a person serving in a position which involves regular contact with students unless the employer conducts a review of the employment history of the applicant by contacting former and current employers and requesting information regarding child abuse and sexual misconduct allegations.
“This common-sense legislation affirms New Jersey’s commitment to ensuring the safety of every student,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “We know most educators would never dream of harming a student, but those who do simply shouldn’t be allowed to continue working in schools. We commend Governor Murphy for taking action to close this loophole in the hiring practices for individuals to whom we entrust our children.”
Rush Russell, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, added, “New Jersey has taken a giant step forward to better protect students from sexual abuse which may be committed by school employees. This important bill stops the secrecy that protected offenders from hiding behind nondisclosure agreements and moving on to other jobs in other schools… and abusing more children.”
The bill, which was sponsored by Assembly members Downey, Webber, Lampitt, and Lagana, and Senators Pennacchio, Bucco, and Ruiz, passed unanimously through the legislature following a report from NJ Advance Media detailing teachers in N.J. serially abusing students and moving between schools without detection. In addition to advocacy from NJCASA and Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, the bill was supported by 18 organizations who work to prevent child sexual abuse and on behalf of survivors of sexual and/or domestic violence.
Similar legislation has passed in at least six other states, including Oregon, Washington, Missouri, Connecticut, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Nationally, the Department of Education found that 4.5M students experienced unwanted sexual contact from a school employee.
ABOUT NJCASA: The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (www.njcasa.org) is the statewide technical assistance and capacity building organization that represents New Jersey’s 21 county-based rape crisis centers and the Rutgers University Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. NJCASA elevates the voice of sexual violence survivors and service providers by advocating for survivor-centered legislation, training-allied professionals, and supporting statewide prevention strategies that work to address and defy the socio-cultural norms that permit and promote rape culture.
ABOUT PCANJ: Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey (PCA-NJ) promotes great childhoods, positive parenting and healthy child development. Founded in 1979, all our efforts throughout the state are dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect in all forms for all New Jersey children. We envision a world where every child has a happy, healthy and safe childhood – free of abuse and neglect. Our prevention programs include public awareness campaigns, parenting education programs, workshops and professional training, home visitation services, initiatives that promote parental involvement in a child’s education, and projects that support highly vulnerable families. We help parents to nurture, develop and sustain healthy children.