The acronym stands for Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation. “It’s an absolute real, significant and predominant problem in all of our states,” says S.E.S.A.M.E. board member John Seryak. A retired teacher from Ohio, Seryak traveled to Harrisburg this week to urge action on SB 1381.
The group is fighting for new laws across the country, but Pennsylvania is on the frontlines, in part because of the high-profile Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The bill would put an end to a practice dubbed ‘passing the trash,’ in which a teacher accused of sexual abuse resigns or retires and is allowed to quietly move on to another district. Specifically, it would tighten abuse reporting laws, require schools to obtain all prospective employees’ work records and prohibit confidentiality agreements between a school and an alleged abuser.
“This legislation was crafted to allow school districts to know who they are hiring,” says state Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia), the prime sponsor of Pennsylvania’s S.E.S.A.M.E. Act.
SB 1381 already received a unanimous vote in the Senate Education Committee. Now, supporters want to see action by the full Senate before the new school year.
Seryak says that in more than one-third of sexual misconduct cases teachers do not lose their certification. “I think it raises the bar as far as responsibility goes… for all the people that work for the school district.”