A Yakima middle school-teacher and soccer coach accused of sexually harassing students made a severance deal with his school district this year to suppress information about his disreputable history.
As a recent Seattle Times series uncovered, what looks like a decent deal for the accused teacher and the East Valley School District is a bum deal for kids.
Such deals are not uncommon. Fortunately, they'll soon be history thanks to a tough new package of state laws.
The Times series, "Coaches who prey," found teachers and coaches with a history of sexual misconduct easily moved from one school district to another. In some cases, they kept their past hidden by making agreements with their districts to seal records of the misconduct. The December series found 159 coaches who were disciplined or fired for sexual misconduct in the past decade. Of those, 98 kept working with children.
The series sparked passage of new laws to close loopholes that allow such teachers and coaches to easily find another job coaching or teaching young people.
The laws, which take effect in June, will prohibit the kind of deals the East Valley School District made with teacher and coach Sean Painter in January. Districts will be required to share information about sexual-misconduct allegations and forbidden from entering into agreements to conceal such information.
Painter, who has denied the allegations of sexual harassment, was allowed to resign rather than be fired. Under the terms of his settlement, district officials are restricted in what they can say to hiring districts or employers who ask about his work history.
District officials say they settled with Painter to get rid of him without paying him and to curb potential legal costs. Under the terms of the deal, the superintendent will read a statement to anyone calling for a reference check on Painter. The statement indicates students made allegations against Painter, but it does not detail their complaints. The agreement prohibits the district from offering additional information from Painter's records.
Good for legislators for putting an end to such deals. School districts should be on the side of children, not those who victimize them.