by J.D. Davidson
Two Ohio lawmakers want to close a loophole in state law that allows teachers who are under investigation for misconduct to retire and school districts to not file a report with the Ohio Department of Education.
The legislation, filed this week by Reps. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, and Sarah Fowler-Arthur, R-Geneva-on-the-Lake, was proposed after five Rocky River School District teachers resigned and one retired in the spring as the district investigated alleged inappropriate contact.
“Closing the Background Check Retirement Loophole protects students and parents,” Miller said. “It also protects school districts. A teacher who retires while under investigation would still have all their rights under law, but other districts would have a clearer picture of the circumstances and could make the best, most informed decision on hiring that teacher. Right now, a district can be left in the dark.”
Schools currently are required to report only when a teacher resigns under threat of termination or nonrenewal of a contract while under investigation. If a teacher retires under the same conditions, schools do not have to report the circumstances, and the teacher can apply to work at another school with nothing on their record.
“This bill will close a gap in state law that potentially allows a teacher to retire due to criminal activity and have no record of the issues if they choose to rehire into the classroom,” Fowler-Arthur said. “Our first goal is to protect students by ensuring districts have accurate information when conducting a background check for the staff they hire or rehire.”
The Rocky River investigation centered around staff members “inappropriately” discussing a student, Superintendent Michael Shoaf said in a statement.
Shoaf said in the statement the investigation uncovered a video relating to three high school teachers, and the district obtained pictures of a fully-clothed student on the phone of one of the teachers.
“The photos, taken in a classroom, were inappropriate enough to warrant concern because they violated Board Policy. Law enforcement and the courts have been made aware of the circumstances and the pictures,” the statement said.
The bill awaits a bill number and committee assignment.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.