School Talk

Rhode Island Could Learn A Lot from Texas

I know, I know. Many of you from the northeast are already rolling your eyes and scoffing at the mere suggestion that we New Englanders, the enlightened ones, could learn anything from Texas.

Time to take off the blinders, guys.

Texas just implemented a ‘Do Not Hire’ registry for teachers who are under investigation for any type of misconduct or have a criminal history that places students at risk. If the educator or non-certified school employee falls into either of these categories, the district, by law, cannot hire them.

Meanwhile, here in Little Rhody, we allow teachers and other school employees to have sexual relationships with students once the student has turned 14—they must be 16 for penetration to be legal. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office has confirmed this to be true—when asked about it by WPRO’s Dan Yorke, Neronha did indicate that he found it troubling and would be willing to take a look at the law.

The teachers’ unions, who oppose making it a crime for teachers and others in positions of authority to have sex with students, will say that a law isn’t needed because the teacher will be fired. And that is often true. They may also lose their certification. The gigantic problem with this being seen as an adequate remedy is that all personnel records are sealed and without any public record of an arrest, unwitting superintendents and school principals end up hiring sexual predators who would have been arrested in most other states.

Just this week a teacher in Pennsylvania was sentenced to twelve years in prison for sex assaults against students at two different high schools whom, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he “groomed into having prolonged relationships with him.”

“He took an interest in me in a way that felt exciting and flattering at the time. At 14 years old, these things made me feel special. I know now this was him grooming me to be a victim.” — One of Christian Wilman’s victims

When she was 17, the two of them were having sex on school property and even in his home when his wife and children were away. She is just one of six victims who came forward.

At the sentencing, the judge said that Wilman’s victims went to school seeking mentorship and guidance, and instead “found pure evil masked as a teacher.”

In Rhode Island, Wilman would not have been arrested because what he did is not a crime.

In Rhode Island, it’s legal for teachers to have sex with their students.

It’s time to fix this. We must do whatever we can to end educator sexual abuse and having the right laws in place is the first step. If we care about school safety, we have to care about this.

What do you think?

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