INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Lawmakers are working hard to keep teachers convicted of child sex crimes out of the classroom. CBS4 discovered a loophole in a state law that was allowing it to happen.
Now, Senate Bill 367 would allow convicted teachers' licenses to be revoked in a process different from what current policy states.
Senator Eric Bassler (R-District 39) said CBS4's investigation brought attention to problems with bad teachers getting the chance to stay in Indiana classrooms, sparking a summer study committee on education policies involving teachers.
Coming out of the study were many bills aimed to keep bad teachers out of classrooms, including a background check bill and Senate Bill 367.
Current policy to revoke a teacher's license could involve multiple steps. The teacher must first be convicted of a list of felony crimes against children. Then, the teacher can sign a release, voluntarily handing over their license. The release is generally given to the teacher in question by the prosecutor's office. If the teacher refuses to give up their license, a hearing must be held.
Senate Bill 367 would remove all of those steps and automatically revoke a teacher's license when convicted of certain crimes against children.
"They’re in a very trusted position. They’re working with our children, our grandchildren and so we want to do everything we can to minimize the possibility that a child predator could have a teaching license in the state of Indiana," said Senator Bassler.
The bill would also add certain misdemeanor crimes to the list of offenses eligible for a teacher's license to be revoked. That includes patronizing a prostitute. Senator Bassler said there's growing concerns a teacher and prosecutor's office could reach a plea agreement, lessening their charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. That would mean their license could not be revoked. Senator Bassler is hoping by adding certain misdemeanor crimes to the list, a convicted teacher wouldn't get away with keeping their license.
“One thing we’re concerned about, does a person slip through the system because they go from the charge of a felony down to a misdemeanor because of the plea process," Senator Bassler questioned.
There's also questions about who is responsible for staying on track of teachers' court cases. State law says individual prosecutor's offices are required to notify the Indiana Department of Education when a teacher is charged and convicted of certain crimes against children. That doesn't always happen, though. Senator Bassler and others will look into streamlining the notification process so that everyone involved can be held accountable.
"We don’t want to have a situation where a person is convicted of a crime and for some reason, the department of education never hears that," Senator Bassler said.
Not everyone is on board with possible changes. Teresa Meredith, President of The Indiana State Teachers Association said she's concerned with some of the bill's language. She believes there should still be a hearing process for teachers after they are convicted to determine if their license should be revoked.
“I think some sort of a temporary suspension until that hearing could be held would he possibly appropriate," Meredith said. She added to ensure, "the teacher is protected in the event that there are false accusations or that they are actually found to be innocent."
Meredith and Senator Bassler are working together to clarify some of the language that Meredith calls "broad." They will also look into adding an amendment where a teacher can get their license back if they are pardoned or a conviction is overturned.
Amendments to Senate Bill 367 will be discussed in the judiciary committee next week.