State lawmakers aim to pass reforms for state agency for second straight year

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 9:03 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa Republicans are trying to pass a number of different reforms for the Board of Educational Examiners, which regulates licenses for educators like teachers and paraeducators.

House File 10, which House Republicans call a priority this legislative session, would stop school districts and teachers from entering into an agreement that prohibits them from discussing incidents and waives liability from talking about an event ending in discipline or resignation for an employee. The bill is moving on to the full education committee with bipartisan support and is the second straight year lawmakers are trying to pass reforms to the Board of Educational Examiners.

In December 2021, our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found Iowa school districts commonly allow staff members under investigation for sexual or physical assault to resign, rather than face a termination process. Experts say it hides the allegation of abuse and criminal investigation from future employers. Our i9 Team also found the educational licenses don’t always show if a licensed teacher or coach is facing an investigation or pled guilty to a crime.

This bill, which unanimously passed a House Subcommittee last week, requires the Board of Educational Examiners notify a school if an applicant is under investigation and requires the school and state agency to keep records for all complaints to look at possible trends. The legislation would also make all adult school employees mandatory reporters and requires reports of child abuse get made for all kids since Iowa Law only requires reports for kids younger than 12 years old.

Rep. Brooke Boden (R-Indianola) said these changes are happening after lawmakers heard about educators with questionable pasts moving between school districts. She said the goal of the legislation to stop this practice, which experts have named Pass the Trash, in Iowa.

“It should be all of our priority to make sure when kids go to school they are cycling with adults who are safe and in a secure environment,” Rep. Boden said.

Rep. Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids) said in an email he supports this legislation, which solves gaps in the procedures for accountability and punishment for failures in mandatory reporting of child neglect and abuse by school employees and administrators in Iowa. He said this bill is better than the bill from the last session because it solves issues regarding the capacity for the Board of Educational Examiners, along with confidentiality and giving educators due process.

“HF10 solves both of these issues by permitting the BOEE to publicly report on its website the investigations that are founded or where there is probable cause,” Rep. Staed wrote. “A school district or accredited nonpublic school shall view the board of educational examiner’s public license information to determine if the individual has a case pending with a finding of probable cause or any licensure sanction. This shall not be construed to require the board of educational examiners to disclose unfounded, closed investigations.”