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Missouri Backs Law to Curb Sex Offenders

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - A bill aimed at preventing teachers accused of sexual misconduct from bouncing between school districts has been sent to Gov. Jeremiah Nixon's desk for final approval.

The measure, passed unanimously by both the state House and Senate, would require school officials to report any allegations of sexual misconduct involving staff and students to the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services within 24 hours.

That division, not the school district, will then investigate the claim. The bill requires school districts to suspend the employee if the allegations are substantiated, and requires school districts to share the information with other districts should they call seeking a reference for that individual.

The bill also gives school districts legal protection if they ever have to share the information with other employers. If school districts fail to share the information, then they could be liable if that employee repeats the actions at other schools.

Supporters of the bill claim certain school districts stay silent about sexual misconduct allegations in exchange for a quick resignation. In some cases, they district officials have even provided positive recommendations to help the employee get a job elsewhere.

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, sponsored the bill. She first introduced the measure in 2008, after an investigation by The Associated Press found 87 licensed teachers in Missouri lost their credentials between 2001 and 2005 for sexual misconduct only to find new work in other districts, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

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