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School background check bill gets OK from Nevada Senate panel

Updated May 30, 2017 - 7:46 pm

A bill aimed at strengthening background checks for Nevada school district employees sailed through the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 362 was heard and unanimously passed, with the committee adopting a friendly amendment posed by the Department of Education. A number of committee members also signed on as co-sponsors.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, R-Reno, is one of two proposals in the works highlighted by experts and advocates in Broken Trust, a three-part Review-Journal investigation into a sexual misconduct crisis in the Clark County School District.

“When someone harms children, we have a responsibility to step up and stop it,” Tolles said Tuesday.

AB362, also called the SESAME Law, after a national nonprofit that advocates on the issue, requires applicants to disclose past allegations, say if they left their job while there were pending allegations and say if they had a license suspended or revoked while there were pending allegations.

School districts would be required to share information about sexual misconduct investigations. The bill prohibits districts from signing agreements to keep investigations under wraps.

The bill also requires the state Department of Education to keep and distribute to districts a list of people who have been denied licenses because of sexual misconduct charges.

“I’ve seen great progress in our state in tackling this abhorrent issue,” said Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation. “Our state has had far too many cases of teachers abusing our trust. It appears to be an epidemic that is on the rise.”

The committee adopted an amendment proposed by the state Department of Education that allows the state to consider denying a license to applicants in cases where FBI or state background checks reference arrests or charges related to education misconduct but didn’t necessarily result in a conviction.

Tolles’ bill now goes to the full Senate floor for a vote.

A partner bill, Senate Bill 287, sponsored by Sen. Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, was approved by the Assembly on Thursday. The Senate concurred with an amendment made by the Assembly, and the bill was sent to the governor.

Gansert’s bill would expand the mandatory reporting law in the state and require districts to check with the state child welfare office to see whether applicants are in the state’s database.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

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