Pennsylvania Senator Fights for Stricter Background Checks in Schools

By Michael Klazema on 12/13/2013

Pat Toomey, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, recently introduced a piece of legislation that, if passed, would provide nationwide protection for students from potentially dangerous teachers, administrators, volunteers, bus drivers, and other school employees. Senator Toomey unveiled his new piece of federal legislation, titled the “Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act,” near the beginning of November. Since then, he’s been visiting cities and towns throughout Pennsylvania, working to build support and awareness for his bill in his home state.

According to Toomey’s website, the “Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act” would require all schools throughout the nation to require background checks on both new applicants and existing employees. While most states or school districts already maintain their own background check policies in schools, Toomey claims that the time has come to adopt a nationwide standard for school background checks. With a more consistent, across-the-board law regarding the screening of teachers and other school employees, Toomey hopes that American children and teenagers everywhere will be kept safer from potential predators.

While the new legislation would require full criminal background checks, one of the prime focuses of Toomey’s bill is barring known sex offenders from ever landing a position in a school where they could potentially harm a child. The bill was largely inspired by years of violent sexual abuses that students have had to suffer at the hands of educational employees abusing their power. Specifically, Toomey looks back at a case from West Virginia as the spark of creation for this particular bill.

The case Toomey has brought up repeatedly since introducing the “Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act” involved a 12-year-old boy, who was a student at a school in West Virginia until he was sexually assaulted, grossly abused, and violently murdered by the principal at his school.

While the case is horrific enough as is, it is most jaw-dropping because it could have so easily been prevented. The principal in the case had been fired from his previous post for a sexual misconduct charge, but the school had quietly and secretly helped him find a new position – at the West Virginia school where his macabre crime took place.

If the principal’s first school had reported his offense to the police, the boy's murder may well have never taken place. But since the first school knowingly passed a predator onto another employer – and onto another group of vulnerable children – they enabled his crime. Since the principal’s first school was actually located in Pennsylvania, Senator Toomey may feel a personal responsibility to address the problem. He’s certainly been influenced by the case: his “Protecting Students” bill contains a provision that would ban schools from helping known sex offenders to find new positions in the educational circuit. provides screening options for both criminal records and offender registries.


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