The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

Bill would close teacher misconduct loophole

- By J D Davidson

Two Ohio lawmakers want to close a loophole in state law that allows teachers under investigat­ion to retire.

(The Center Square) — Two Ohio lawmakers want to close a loophole in state law that allows teachers who are under investigat­ion for misconduct to retire and school districts to not file a report with the Ohio Department of Education.

The legislatio­n, filed this week by Reps. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, and Sarah Fowler-Arthur, R-Geneva-on-the-Lake, was proposed after five Rocky River School District teachers resigned and one retired in the spring as the district investigat­ed alleged inappropri­ate contact.

“Closing the Background Check Retirement Loophole protects students and parents,” Miller said. “It also protects school districts. A teacher who retires while under investigat­ion would still have all their rights under law, but other districts would have a clearer picture of the circumstan­ces and could make the best, most informed decision on hiring that teacher. Right now, a district can be left in the dark.”

Schools are required to report only when a teacher resigns under threat of terminatio­n or nonrenewal of a contract while under investigat­ion. If a teacher retires under the same conditions, schools do not have to report the circumstan­ces, and the teacher can apply to work at another school with nothing on their record.

“This bill will close a gap in state law that potentiall­y allows a teacher to retire due to criminal activity and have no record of the issues if they choose to rehire into the classroom,” FowlerArth­ur said. “Our first goal is to protect students by ensuring districts have accurate informatio­n when conducting a background check for the staff they hire or rehire.”

The Rocky River investigat­ion centered around staff members “inappropri­ately” discussing a student, Superinten­dent Michael Shoaf said in a statement.

Shoaf said in the statement the investigat­ion uncovered a video relating to three high school teachers, and the district obtained pictures of a fully-clothed student on the phone of one of the teachers.

“The photos, taken in a classroom, were inappropri­ate enough to warrant concern because they violated Board Policy. Law enforcemen­t and the courts have been made aware of the circumstan­ces and the pictures,” the statement said.

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