One piece of a multi-part plan to protect students from being groomed by teachers, administrators or other school employees advanced from first-round debate Monday.
The bill (LB1080) from Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop would require public and private schools to develop and adopt policies that clearly communicate to school employees what contact with students is appropriate.
“In discussing this topic, we learned that while many school districts have policies regarding appropriate conduct between staff and students,” Lathrop said, “that is not the case in every school district.” Each policy would be required to describe and prohibit grooming, or the building of a friendship or relationship with a child in order to exploit them for sex, Lathrop said.
School policies would also need to outline which communication platforms teachers can use to communicate with students, the reporting process for any misconduct, and prohibit any sexual interaction between teachers and former students for at least one year after students leave the school.
Lathrop said the bill was aimed at a “small minority” of school staff who abuse their positions of trust. “The educators I represent — these people are committed professionals,” he said. “I believe you would all say the same about the vast majority of teachers in your local school district. “But even a few of these cases are too many,” Lathrop added.
Education Committee Chair Mike Groene said the bill will help ease parents’ minds when they drop their children off at the school door. “Most of us would think this is common sense and every school district would have solid policies in place, but some don’t, even some bigger school districts,” Groene said.
Policies would also need to include the potential consequences, ranging from disciplinary action, firing or loss of a teaching certificate and referral to law enforcement, Lathrop said, depending on the circumstances.
The bill advanced to the second of three rounds of debate on a 39-0 vote.