Apr 302018

From a Roseville Joint Union High School District Trustee Julie Hirota:

AB 2128 is a bill regarding the safety of our children at school. What led me to this effort are incidents I’m facing as a trustee in our schools.  One example has become of statewide interest as reported in the Sacramento Bee:
I’m sure this is happening in districts accross the state and I’m searching to find more reports like this.

Though I can’t comment on issues in closed sessions, I can share what’s been reported in the Sacramento Newspaper.  A longtime teacher, with a history of inappropriate behavior, continues to be employed in the classroom after a 14-year old child complained that he often touched her, massaged her shoulders, flirted with her and even pulled her skirt above her knee. This type of sexual harassment impairs the relationship, disrupts the educational process and teaches our kids that it’s ok to be threatened.  This lesson will be imprinted on this child the rest of her life.  Not a single day passes that I haven’t thought about this young girl and said to myself, “this could be my daughter.”

Sexual harassment can be subtle.  So much that kids might question the reality of what’s happening.  In recent headlines we’ve seen that many adults had difficulty reporting sexual harassment.  And, when a student feels uncomfortable, they don’t always know what to do, so it’s ourresponsibility as adults to do everything we can to protect them.

Again, I’m very interested in passing new language in AB 2128 (click for link.)  The author is Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. The bill attempts to do two things:
  1. First, it would expand the definition of “egregious misconduct” in Education Code Section 44932 to include “sexual harassment.”
    • This would allow the expedited dismissal process to be triggered in cases where a teacher is accused of committing sexual harassment against a student.

  2.  Second, the bill would allow local school officials to look back more than 4 years into a teacher’s record in cases involving sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior with a student. Existing law limits the presentation of evidence and testimony to 4 years except in the most serious instances of alleged sexual assault or child abuse.
    • Expanding the exemptions to this 4-year limit would allow school officials to develop a pattern of inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment when deciding to dismiss a teacher.

In the era of #MeToo, we cannot tolerate the sexual harassment of our children in the classroom.  AB 2128 makes common sense changes to strengthen the existing teacher dismissal statute and better to protect kids from these predatory behaviors.

Bill Status

  • The bill passed the Education Committee 7/0
  • The bill passed (with a significant amendment) the Judiciary Committee yesterday 10/0  (Assemblyman Mark Stone is the chair.)
  • The bill has moved to the Appropriations Committee (no date set)

Assemblyman Stone amended the document and includes the following legislative analysis.

Legislative Analysis and Bill Amendment

The legislative analysis and the feedback from “the committee” (Mark Stone with analysis from his analyst, Alison Merrilees) includes:

  • As now in print, the bill would add sexual harassment, as defined in Section 212.5, to the definition of “egregious misconduct,” basically placing it in the same category of misconduct as sexual offenses such as rape, sodomy, oral copulation, and child molestation. (See Section 44932.) While sexual harassment is serious and traumatizing, the Committee questions whether one act of sexual harassment is sufficiently serious for it to be put in the same category as extremely serious crimes such as rape, sodomy, oral copulation, and child molestation, or whether it should not be.
What’s difficult to me as a parent and a trustee is that sexual harassment is a gateway to sexual assault or sex with a minor.  Teachers need to be held to a higher standard as mentors who have an unusual amount of influence and power over our children during their most vulnerable and the majority of time in their life. 

This amendment which strikes out the new language defeats the major purpose of the bill. By striking the language in this bill, it compromises the safety of children, who are at risk of sexual harassment from teachers.  This is not acceptable.

I’d be happy to meet and talk about any interest on this issue.

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