Indiana education committee looks at sexual misconduct

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A group of Indiana lawmakers is looking at sexual misconduct in schools to see if legislation is needed in 2017 to help curb abuse.

Kelly Bauder, legal counsel for the Indiana Department of Education, told the Interim Study Committee on Education on Monday how the department revokes an educator's license if he or she is found to have sexually abused a student. He or she would be prevented from getting a teaching job elsewhere.

Bauder said the department doesn't have legal jurisdiction over unlicensed employees such as coaches, teaching assistants, paraeducators, faculty or volunteers. She said she'd like to see legislation addressing those gaps.

"I think there are things we can do to help the situation," Bauder said. "We can make them do training or take away their ability to coach."

Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said he'll work closely with the Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox to better protect middle school and high school athletes.

"Cox is very concerned about this issue," Merritt said. "He wants to include all adults on the sidelines, anyone that's involved in an athletic program. He is concerned about the education of those individuals."

Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council assistant executive director Chris Naylor said he was concerned that the state's expungement law could allow teachers who have inappropriate relationships with students to slip through the cracks of a background check. The convictions won't show up in school background checks if they're expunged, and the law says employers aren't permitted to use an expunged conviction as a reason to deny employment.

"We see these as potential loopholes and bring them for your consideration," Naylor said.

The committee will vote on legislative proposals Sept. 20.

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