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May-31-2007 04:57printcomments

Oregon Lawmakers Calling for Better School Background Checks

“As a teacher, I’m getting sick and tired of having teachers arrested for abusing kids," State Representative Jerry Krummel (R-Wilsonville) said.

oregon state capitol
Salem-News.com

(SALEM, Ore. ) - A bi-partisan trio of legislators pushing for better background checks in Oregon schools is making an impact on a measure making its way through the Oregon House of Representatives.

On Wednesday they amended Senate Bill 724 in the House Education Committee and sent the legislation on to the House Elections, Ethics and Rules Committee.

“As a teacher, I’m getting sick and tired of having these teachers arrested for abusing kids. That’s the last person you would expect to be abusing a child, especially in a school. And I think it is absolutely reprehensible that they would be doing that,” said State Representative Jerry Krummel (R-Wilsonville), a licensed teacher in Oregon many years.

Representative Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) and Representative Linda Flores (R-Clackamas) are joining Krummel to call for mandatory state and federal background checks for any employees, contractors or volunteers a school district feels “may have direct, unsupervised contact with students.” This rigorous screening is already required for licensed teachers.

“We’ve all heard the m.o. (modus operandi); pedophiles seek out a target rich environment like a school playground, or gym class, or the swimming pool, or the football field,” explained Barker. “It’s really sad, but these characters will find ways to infiltrate our school system so they can carry out their grooming tactics earn the trust of a young child and take advantage of them.”

Barker listed several examples including the recent case of a volunteer coach charged with sexually abusing a 16-year old girl on his cheerleading squad at a Beaverton High School.

As Chair of the House Education Committee in 2005, Flores sponsored legislation to crack down on cases like this in the schools.

“When does it stop?” asked Flores. “It seems like every session we have to do more work in this area. This is fine, because there is nothing more important than our children and the security of our children. But it’s just a little frustrating to have to keep revisiting the issues.”

Her interim education committee sponsored a bill but it didn’t get a hearing. The original SB 724 allows former prostitutes to become teachers in certain circumstances.

Some school districts already conduct checks on non-teaching staff and volunteers.

This legislation adds more safeguards for adults working alone with children.

The average cost to the district or the applicant is in the neighborhood of $50-$70.

Representative Krummel, a member of the House Education Committee, said its money well spent.

“If there was one volunteer that we found out later had abused or violated three kids, and they had a history of it, the fifty or seventy bucks for a background check doesn’t seem like a big deal. If we prevent one child from being abused than we have met our goal; we have done some good with this kind of a bill.”




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