Educator Misconduct Bill Receives Unanimous Support in House
One of the most important and consequential pieces of legislation we’ll pass this year. – Rep. Garrett Gobble, R-Polk, educator
One of PCA Iowa’s key legislative priorities in 2022 is sexual abuse prevention in schools. We are pleased to report that one of our most sought-after bills, House File 2567, has passed the House with a 93-0 vote.
HF 2567 addresses a practice known as “Pass the Trash,” in which school employees engaged in misconduct are allowed to resign or retire in place of an investigation or legal action. In these agreements, schools sometimes trade positive references or financial rewards for an employee’s quiet disappearance. While these agreements stop the immediate problem for the school, they create a new problem for the next district–the school unwittingly hires a dangerous employee (often with a glowing reference!) and the cycle continues.
HF 2567 has several provisions meant to close the loopholes that have allowed this practice in Iowa:
- All full-time school employees, not just licensed educators, become mandatory reporters, and suspected abuse of all minors (not just those under 12) must be reported.
- A school administrator who becomes aware of misconduct or criminal behavior is required to open an investigation, and to inform the licensing board. They may not enter into resignation agreements with the employee, and cannot be held liable in civil court for truthfully disclosing concerns in a reference check. An administrator who violates this section risks a fine of up to $10,000 and the loss of their license.
- The Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE), Iowa’s educator licensing board, will have increased responsibility for tracking and sharing investigation data. They must follow up on a report to see that schools followed the process, and an administrator must check with BOEE for any open investigations. BOEE also gains the authority to investigate when there are several similar complaints filed against the same educator (for example, multiple athletes report that a coach uses inappropriate touch, but no single case is ever founded).
Abuse often starts as grooming, a pattern of subtle boundary-pushing behaviors used to gain the trust and compliance of a child or teen. This behavior can be hard to detect, and at first is usually entirely legal—it may even seem like a positive relationship to the child and their family. When schools respond to early warning signs and investigate these grooming behaviors, they protect their own students and prevent future harm.
PCA Iowa is thankful to Representatives Dustin Hite (R-Mahaska) and Garrett Gobble (R-Polk) for working with our advocacy team on this bill, and to the House Education Committee and both caucuses for their bipartisan work. Legislators on both sides of the aisle agree that these changes are necessary for the good of Iowa students, families, and schools.
The bill moves to the Senate, where the process must repeat before the bill can go to the Governor for her signature. To get involved, contact your Senator and ask them to support HF 2567.