Education, West Virginia Legislature

Senate committee approves bill dealing with child sexual abuse by school employees, and one on sexual violence prevention

MORGANTOWN – The state Senate Education Committee quickly passed on Tuesday bills dealing with child sexual abuse and child sexual violence prevention.

SB 187 creates a new felony for any public or private school teacher, principal, counselor, coach, or other employee to engage in sexual intercourse, sexual intrusion, or sexual contact with any student regardless of the student’s age. Student consent, or occurrence of the act off of school property or outside of a school function do not qualify as defenses.

The crime carries a penalty of 1-5 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Conviction also mandates forfeiture of any teaching or other certificate.

The bill has bipartisan sponsorship. Committee vice chair Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, is lead sponsor and said the county prosecutor there approached him about the bill because of two teachers who were involved in relationships with students. They students were over 18 so the prosecutor had no means to bring a case.

Referring to a comment by Sen. Mike Oliverio, R-Monongalia, Clements agreed, “These people are in a position of trust over these young people.”

Members passed the bill unanimously and it goes next to Judiciary.

SB 124 requires the state Board of Education to develop a program in dating violence prevention and sexual violence prevention. It would provide age-appropriate instruction for students in grades 7-12.

If a parent or guardian asks to local school to inspect the instructional materials, the principal must comply with the request.

The state board must also post links on its website to free curricula that covers the required instruction.

The bill also requires four hours of in-service training in those issues and in positive youth development for any county school board nurse, teacher, counselor, school psychologist, or administrator. The bill does not mention private schools.

Both sponsors of this bill are Democrats.

The bill passed unanimously and will be on first reading on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

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