Three bills intended to protect children from sexual
misconduct committed by teachers and coaches unanimously passed the state
House this week and probably soon will be headed to Gov. Gary Locke to
be signed into law.
" It's as good as done," said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who
introduced two of the bills. "The Senate has already agreed to concur
with amendments on all three bills and vote for final passage. It should
The spate of legislation was a response to a Seattle Times series, "Coaches
Who Prey," which ran in December and found that schools often have
allowed predatory teachers and coaches to bounce from one school district
to another while keeping their histories secret.
The Times found 159 coaches who were disciplined or fired because of sexual
misconduct; yet 98 of them continued working with children.
Late Thursday and yesterday, the House approved Senate-passed measures
school districts to notify each other about past and current employees'
That would make sure school districts could not allow an employee who
abuses students to simply transfer to a new district, rather than confronting
the problem, advocates say.
Districts also would be prohibited from entering into severance agreements
with employees that conceal sexual-misconduct complaints.
" We do not want any individuals working in our school districts
who do not have the best interests of the children at heart and would in
them," Kohl-Welles said.
a one-year deadline for the Office of the Superintendent of Public
to complete an investigation when a complaint of
with a child is filed against an educator, unless there is a concurrent
The Times found that the agency took two years,
on average, to investigate sexual-abuse complaints.
school employees to report to supervisors suspected abuse or neglect
According to a last-minute amendment, the alerted administrator is
required to notify the involved parties — including the alleged victim
and the student's parents — of the charges before going to
law-enforcement authorities under some circumstances.
Also Thursday night, after a highly emotional debate, the House
approved a less-stringent version of a measure that would increase penalties
for child sex offenders.
The original bill proposed by Rep. Lois McMahan, R-Olalla, would have
lengthened prison terms and abolished a program that lets first-time
child sex offenders
get lighter jail terms if they go through treatment.
Instead, the House voted to make it harder for offenders to qualify
for the Special Sex Offender Sentencing program.
Republicans argued that the new version of the bill doesn't go far
enough and are hoping the Republican-majority Senate will insist on
the tougher language McMahan proposed.