Abuse reporting bill

The 2020 Oregon Legislature may well make changes to state law when it comes to improper sexual contact between an adult associated with a school district and a child. While some of what’s proposed is good, there’s one question that continues to loom.

First, the good news.

Though it hasn’t been the case so far, board members of education service districts would become mandatory reporters if a proposed bill becomes law. ESD board members have not had that duty under the law, but given that for many school districts, the local ESD provides services the districts may not be able to provide themselves, the change makes sense.

The High Desert Education Service District, as one example, provides early intervention for children from birth to 3, and early childhood special education through age 5. It also provides services for students with autism, those with hearing loss, vision impairment and orthopedic problems.

Given the range of services and the likelihood of contact between ESD specialists and students, it makes sense to require board members to report allegations of abuse to the proper authorities when they learn of an allegation.

The proposed bill will also make it easier for the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, which licenses teachers in Oregon, to give school districts information about the outcome of an investigation when it decides to discipline a teacher or someone else who has been accused of misconduct. That, too, is a good thing, for it will give school districts the tools they need to take their own disciplinary or other action to move an employee to a different job. Too, the bill will allow TSPC to turn information over to the Department of Human Services and law enforcement.

It is not clear — from our reading of the bill — how much information a district will have available when it seeks to hire, say, a teacher who was disciplined when they had been working in another district. The Legislature needs to discuss that when it debates this bill.

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