SB 54 Creates the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act and establishes the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children
Sponsor: Cunningham
LR Number: 0248S.02T Fiscal Note: 0248-02T.ORG
Committee: Education
Last Action: 7/14/2011 - Signed by Governor Journal Page:
Title: SCS SB 54 Calendar Position:
Effective Date: August 28, 2011
House Handler: Kelly

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Current Bill Summary


SCS/SB 54 – This act creates the "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act." (Section 160.085)

SECTION 37.710 - This act grants the Office of the Child Advocate the authority to file any findings or reports of the Child Advocate regarding the parent or child with the court and to issue recommendations regarding the disposition of an investigation, which may be provided to the court and the investigating agency. The Office may also mediate between alleged victims of sexual misconduct and school districts.

SECTION 160.261 - If a student reports alleged sexual misconduct by a teacher or other school employee to a school employee who is required to report to the Children's Division, the employee and the school district superintendent must forward the allegation to the Children's Division within twenty-four hours. Any reports made to the Children's Division must be investigated by the Division in accordance with Division procedures. The school district must not conduct an investigation for purposes of determining whether the allegations should be substantiated. A district may investigate the allegations for purposes of making a decision regarding the accused employee's employment. This act also requires the investigating officers to review the report using a preponderance of evidence standard.

SECTION 160.262 - This act authorizes the Office of the Child Advocate to offer mediation services when requested by both parties when child abuse allegations arise in a school setting. The mediator must not be a mandated reporter of child abuse. No student, parent of a student, school employee, or school district will be required to enter into mediation. If either party does not wish to enter into mediation, mediation will not occur. Procedures for mediation are described in the act.

SECTIONS 160.2100 & 160.2110: This act creates the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. This act shall be known and may be cited as "Erin's Law."

Task Force members must be individuals who are actively involved in the prevention of child abuse and neglect and child welfare. The President Pro Tem of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives may each appoint one member of the General Assembly to the task force. The following additional members will be on the task force: the director of the Department of Social Services, or his or her designee; the Commissioner of Education, or his or her designee; the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, or his or her designee; the director of the Office of Prosecution Services, or his or her designee; a representative representing law enforcement, appointed by the Governor; three active teachers employed in Missouri, appointed by the Governor; a representative of an organization involved in forensic investigation relating to child abuse, appointed by the Governor; a school superintendent, appointed by the Governor; a representative of the State Domestic Violence Coalition, appointed by the Governor; a representative from the juvenile and family court, appointed by the Governor; a representative from the Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers, appointed by the Governor; and an at-large member appointed by the Governor.

The Task Force must make recommendations for reducing child sexual abuse. The Task Force must submit a final report with its recommendations to the Governor, General Assembly, and State Board of Education by January 1, 2013. The Task Force will end on January 1, 2013.

The Task Force may also adopt a policy addressing sexual abuse of children, including a curriculum.

SECTION 162.014 - A registered sex offender, or a person required to be registered as a sex offender, is prohibited from being a candidate for school board. A sitting school board member who is a registered sex offender or is required to be registered will not be eligible to serve as a board member at the conclusion of his or her term.

SECTION 162.068 - By July 1, 2012, every school district must adopt a written policy on information that the district may provide about former employees to other public schools.

The act grants civil immunity to school district employees who are permitted to respond to requests for information regarding former employees under a school district policy and who communicates only the information that the policy directs and who acts in good faith and without malice. If an action is brought against the employee, he or she may request that the Attorney General defend him or her in the suit, except as described in the act.

If a school district had an employee whose job involved contact with children and the district received allegations of the employee's sexual misconduct and as a result of such allegations or as a result of such allegations being substantiated by the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board the district dismisses the employee or allows the employee to resign and the district fails to disclose the allegations in a reference to another school district or when responding to a potential employer's request for information regarding such employee, the district will be liable for damages and have third-party liability for any legal liability, legal fees, costs, and expenses incurred by the employing district caused by the failure to disclose such information to the employing district.

When a school district employs a person who has been investigated by the Children's Division and for whom there has been a finding of substantiated from such investigation, the district must immediately suspend the person's employment. The district may return the person to his or her employment if the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board's finding that the allegation is substantiated is reversed by a court on appeal. Nothing shall preclude a school district from otherwise lawfully terminating the employment of an employee about whom there has been a finding of unsubstantiated from such an investigation.

A school district that has employed a person for whom there was a finding of substantiated from a Children's Division investigation must disclose the finding of substantiated to any other public school that contacts it for a reference.

A school district is prohibited from discharging or discriminating against an employee who, acting in good faith, reports alleged sexual misconduct.

SECTION 162.069 - By January 1, 2012, every school district must develop a written policy concerning teacher-student communication and employee-student communications. Each policy must include appropriate oral and nonverbal personal communication, which may be combined with sexual harassment policies, and appropriate use of electronic media as described in the act, including social networking sites. Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student. Former student is defined as any person who was at one time a student at the school at which the teacher is employed and who is eighteen years of age or less and who has not graduated.

By January 1, 2012, each school district must include in its teacher and employee training a component that provides information on identifying signs of sexual abuse in children and of potentially abusive relationships between children and adults, with an emphasis on mandatory reporting. Training must also include an emphasis on the obligation of mandated reporters to report suspected abuse by other mandatory reporters.

SECTION 168.021 - In order to obtain a teaching certificate, an applicant must complete a background check as provided in section 168.133.

SECTION 168.071 - The crimes of sexual contact with a student while on public school property as well as second and third degree sexual misconduct are added to the offenses for which a teacher's license or certificate may be revoked.

SECTION 168.133 - School districts are responsible for conducting the criminal background check on bus drivers they employ. For drivers employed by a pupil transportation company under contract with the district, the criminal background check must be conducted through the Highway Patrol's criminal record review and must conform to the requirements of the National Child Protection Act of 1993, as amended by the Volunteers for Children Act. A school district's criminal background check on school employees must include a search of publicly available information in an electronic format that displays information through a public index or single case display.

This act changes, from two to one, the number of sets of fingerprints an applicant must submit for a criminal history background check. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must facilitate an annual check for employees with active teaching certificates against criminal history records in the central repository, sexual offender registry, and child abuse central registry. The Missouri Highway Patrol must provide ongoing electronic updates to criminal history background checks for those persons previously submitted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

A school district may conduct a new criminal background check and fingerprint collection for a newly hired employee at its own expense.

SECTION 210.135 - Third-party reporters of child abuse who report an alleged incident to any employee of a school district are immune from civil and criminal liability under certain circumstances.

SECTION 210.145 - The Children's Division must provide information about the Office of the Child Advocate and services it may provide to any individual who is not satisfied with the results of an investigation.

SECTION 210.152 - The Children's Division may reopen a case for review at the request of the alleged perpetrator, alleged victim, or the Office of the Child Advocate 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. Procedures for reopening an investigation are described in the act. 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.

SECTIONS 210.915 and 210.922 - This act adds the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to the list of departments that must collaborate to compare records on child-care, elder-care, and personal-care workers, including those individuals required to undergo a background check under Section 168.133 and who may use registry information to carry out assigned duties.

SECTION 556.037 - This act modifies the current statute of limitations for the prosecution of unlawful sexual offenses involving a person eighteen years of age or younger so that such a prosecution must be commenced within thirty years after the victim reaches the age of eighteen.

This act is identical to the perfected version of SS/SB 286 (2011), contains provisions identical to HB 219 (2011), and is substantially similar to the perfected version of SCS/SB 631 (2010), is similar to SB 41 (2009), HCS/HB 1314 (2008), SB 1212 (2008) and contains provisions similar to HB 1911 (2010), HB 2334 (2008) and HB 2579 (2008).

MICHAEL RUFF