Education, West Virginia Legislature

Senate committees quickly approve charter school fund bill and one prohibiting school employees having sex with students

MORGANTOWN – The Senate Finance Committee spent less than five minutes Tuesday approving a bill to create a Charter Schools Stimulus Fund.

Senate Judiciary spent just under 20 minutes on a bill aimed at school employees who have sex with students, with most of that refining what turned out to be a one-word amendment.

SB 47 creates the Charter Schools Stimulus Fund, to support charter school applicants and charter schools that may not have the resources for start-up costs.

The fund would consist of money appropriated by the Legislature, grants, gifts and donations from any public or private source.

With a committee amendment offered by Sen. Mike Oliverio, R-Monongalia, it provides an initial grant of up to $300,000 before or during the school’s first two years of existence, followed by a possible second grant of up to $100,000.

Grants must be paid back if the school fails to begin operating within 18 months.

The bill provides no money for the fund; if it becomes law, the Legislature would have to choose to appropriate money for it.

The bill now goes to the full Senate.

School employee bill

SB 187 as it came to Judiciary 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.

Sen. Ryan Weld wanted to include school volunteers in the list and about 15 minutes of the deliberation was spent considering the wording and placement of the amendment.

They chose the simplest approach and the list now reads “any public or private school teacher, principal, counselor, coach, other employee, or volunteer … .”

It also heads to the full Senate.

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