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A Victory for Kids

December 16, 2015

It is unimaginable: A child is being repeatedly sexually abused, and the people the child should be able to trust not only stand by but actually facilitate the abuse.

Amazingly it is happening and - of all places - in our children's schools.

Again and again, we have seen instances where a teacher or other school employee sexually abuses a child, other school employees know, and instead of acting to protect the child, those employees facilitate the abuse.

Take Pittsburgh's Plum High School. At least two teachers have been charged with sexually abusing students in their care. A third teacher allegedly took it upon himself to intimidate one of the victims in an attempt to silence her.

Or consider the tragic case of Jeremy Bell, 12. At an elementary school in Delaware County, child after child, boys ages 10 to 12, came forward and told the school officials how the fifth-grade science teacher had performed sexual acts on them - and raped at least one boy. The school, appallingly, helped the pedophile land a new teaching job in West Virginia, sending along letters of recommendation. That teacher continued brutalizing children, eventually raping and murdering Jeremy Bell.

The vast majority of teachers would never stand by and allow a child to be hurt - much less harm a child themselves.

But these cases reveal a troubling mindset that has taken hold at too many schools. When an allegation of child sexual abuse emerges, some employees first look the other way and do not report the abuse. Then they discourage - or intimidate - children who want to come forward and report the abuse. Finally, when there are so many child victims it cannot be swept under the rug, they help that pedophile get a new job, where he'll be someone else's problem.

Indeed, the practice of schools helping a child molester land a job at another school is so common that it has its own moniker-"passing the trash."

Fortunately, last year, the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted a law banning passing the trash. And Pennsylvania has dedicated prosecutors willing to uncover the alleged wrongdoing at schools like Plum High School.

But Pennsylvania legislators and prosecutors cannot stop schools in other states from passing their pedophile employees to Pennsylvania schools. Federal legislation is necessary.

That is why I took the fight to Washington, D.C., introducing bipartisan legislation that would ban passing the trash nationwide. President Obama has signed into law a bipartisan education bill that included my legislation banning this terrible process. This legislation is a crucial step forward toward protecting our children from child molesters.

A study by the Government Accountability Office found that the average pedophile working in a school victimized 73 children over a lifetime. Seventy-three. Imagine if that pedophile was caught after the first victim instead of "passed along" to other victims. How many children would be spared?

No child should have his or her innocence shattered by sexual abuse. When we in Congress work together - across party lines - we can achieve real victories to protect our children.