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SB54 - Amy Hestir Student Protection Act

Status: Approved by the Governor.

The Office of Child Advocate may file findings or reports of the child advocate with the juvenile court and issue recommendations regarding the disposition of an investigation.  Reports and findings may be provided to the court and investigating agency.  Gives the Department of Social Services (DSS) the authority to mediate between alleged victims of sexual misconduct and school districts.

School districts are mandated to adopt a policy to address allegations of sexual misconduct by a teacher or any school employee.  The person receiving the report and the superintendent shall forward the allegation to DSS within 24 hours of receipt of the report.  Reports will be investigated by DSS to determine whether or not the allegations should be substantiated.  Districts may investigate the allegations but the findings are to be used for employment purposes only.

The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) shall coordinate mediation efforts between school districts and students when requested by both parties.  Mediation must be conducted by a qualified/impartial mediator (list maintained by OCA) and should not be used to deny or delay the complaint process.  Mediators should not be affiliated with a professional school organization or be a mandated reporter of child abuse or neglect.  Mediation discussions are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in any subsequent administrative hearing, nor in any civil or criminal proceeding.  If a resolution is received the parties shall execute a legally binding agreement stating all discussions through mediation will remain confidential and will not be used in future proceedings.

Sections 160.2100 and 160.2110 establish Erin’s Law and create the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children.   The task force shall study the issue of sexual abuse of children and make recommendations for reducing child sexual abuse in Missouri by January 1, 2013.  The task force may adopt and implement a policy addressing sexual abuse of children.

Registered sex offenders cannot be elected to a school board.  Current members who are registered or required to be registered as a sex offender are ineligible for reelection.

By July 1, 2012, all school districts must adopt a written policy relating to information that the district will provide about former employees (certified and non-certified) to other public schools.  The policy should include who has permission to respond to requests for information and the information that will be provided upon a request.  Notice of the policy must be provided to all current and potential employees.

If DSS returns substantiated findings of sexual misconduct against a school district employee, that employee must be immediately suspended.  If the finding is reversed, employment may be reinstated.  However, a school district is precluded from otherwise lawfully terminating the employee as allowed under state law.

School district representatives, acting in good faith and pursuant to district policy, responding to requests for information regarding former employees are granted civil immunity.

School districts may be civilly liable for failure to disclose information about an employee that was dismissed or resigned due to substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct to a subsequent employing district.  The district shall reveal findings of substantiated allegations on any former employee to any public school district that inquires.  Any employee, who reports in good faith another teacher, shall not be terminated or discriminated against as a result.

Districts, by January 1, 2012, must adopt a policy relating to teacher-student communication addressing appropriate verbal communication, electronic media, social networking, and teacher websites.  By July 2012, employee training should include up-to-date training on indentifying signs of sexual abuse.

Added to the list of reasons that the State Board of Education may discipline an educator’s certification is sexual contact with a student while on public school property, sexual misconduct in the second degree, and sexual misconduct in the third degree.

School districts are responsible for conducting background checks on drivers employed by the district.  Pupil transportation companies under contract with school districts must conduct criminal background checks, conforming to the child protection act of 1993, on their drivers.

DESE must conduct annual background checks of all certified teachers.  Districts should annually submit data for personnel without valid certificates.  Missouri State Highway Patrol should provide ongoing electronic updates to background checks of those persons previously submitted, both active and inactive certificates.  A school may conduct a new criminal background check on any newly hired employee at the district's expense.

Third-party reporters of child abuse who report, in good faith, an alleged incident to any employee of a school district are immune from civil and criminal liability.  Any person that knowingly makes a false report is denied immunity.

The Children's Division must provide information about the OCA and the services provided by that office to any individual who is not satisfied with the results of an investigation.

The Children's Division may reopen a case for review at the request of the alleged perpetrator, alleged victim, or the OCA if new, specific, and credible evidence is obtained that the Division's decision was based on fraud or misrepresentation of material facts relevant to the Division's decision.  Any person who makes a request to reopen based on facts the person knows to be false will be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.  The Division cannot reopen an investigation while the case is pending before a court or when a court has entered a final judgment after de novo judicial review.

DSS, DESE and DMH should collaborate to compare records on child care, elder care, mental health, and personal care workers.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is added to the list of departments who may use registry information to carry out assigned duties.

The current statute of limitations is extended from twenty to thirty years for the prosecution of unlawful sexual offenses involving a person eighteen years of age or younger.  The prosecution must be commenced within thirty years after the victim reaches the age of eighteen.