JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING UNSUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT BY SCHOOL EMPLOYEES.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Sen. Toni Boucher, 26th Dist.
REASONS FOR BILL:
The reason for the bill is remove all references on a school employee's personnel record regarding unsubstantiated allegations of abuse or neglect by such employee. Should the Department of Children and Families (DCF) launch an investigation into a school employee, the employee under investigation shall receive the results of the investigation. The bill also requires the State Department of Education (SDE), superintendent, and school districts to remove the investigation from the records of that employee should the DCF find the claim to be unsubstantiated.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Dianna R. Wentzell, Commissioner, State Department of Education:
Commissioner Wentzell opposed the passage of this bill as unsubstantiated is defined not as a false allegation or that no deplorable action has occurred, but rather as a claim which had not met the statutory definition of abuse or neglect. The requirement under the bill to remove references to reports and other claims deemed unsubstantiated by the Department of Children and Families would hinder schools and districts from examining patters of claims against teachers.
Sarah H. Eagan, Advocate, Office of the Child Advocate:
Ms. Eagan, who spoke on behalf of the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), remained cautious on this bill, as schools and districts have an obligation to ensure the well-being of every child. Although a claim may be ruled as unsubstantiated, this does not mean that the educator or staff has done nothing of concern. OCA believed that school districts should have the flexibility of to review and retain this information should such an educator or staff be accused of a similar offense post investigation.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Christopher P. Hankins, Legal Counsel, Connecticut Education Association:
Mr. Hankins testified on behalf of the Connecticut Education Association, provided several comments on the bill. First, he commended C.G.S. Subsection 17a-101i (c) (1) as a great “statutory mechanism to assist in lessening the stigma of an unfounded allegation of child abuse or neglect.” He argued that having unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse in a teachers file could hinder future employment as it is public information through the Freedom of Information Act. He requested to change this subsection to add “the school employee's representative” to the list individuals or entities that are notified by the Commissioner of Children and Families when abuse or neglect is unsubstantiated.
However he had concerns on C.G.S Subsection 17a-101i (c)(2), as he believed that it undoes all the benefits to school employees that occur with proposed subsection (c)(1).He argued that C.G.S. Section 10-151(d) already accomplishes the goal of the new proposed subsection (c)(2) and that this subsection also goes against sections 10-221s and 12a-101h which permit the coordination of investigatory activities between the school district, Department of Children and Families, and law enforcement. However, since the school district can do a parallel investigation, using unsubstantiated allegations after the investigation is complete is counter to the decision that has already been made.
Paul Angelucci, Plumbing and Heating Department Head, State Vocational Federation of Teachers/ Wilcox THS, Meriden, Connecticut:
Mr. Angelucci supported this legislation and provided personal testimony on the effect of an unsubstantiated claim on his personnel record, and its effect on his ability to find and retain employment. In his testimony, Mr. Angelucci stated that an incident which was later reviewed to be unsubstantiated has been in his personal file for nearly ten years. Mr. Angelucci stated that this bill would protect the reputations of teachers who have had unsubstantiated claims against them.
The following organizations did not believe educators should be penalized for unproven or unsubstantiated allegations of abuse or neglect:
The Connecticut Association of School Administrators
The Connecticut Association of Schools
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Andrew Lampart