2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Teacher misconduct would require prompt reporting under Iowa law

The State Capitol dome is illuminated by the sunset in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The State Capitol dome is illuminated by the sunset in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Legislation stemming from allegations of a middle school teacher’s sexual abuse of a Linn County student was unanimously approved by the Iowa House on Tuesday.

“This was the No. 1 issue I heard from constituents at the door” while campaigning last year, said Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, about the case that happened in the Linn-Mar Community School District school, which is in the district she represents.

Voters were upset about allegations that there were three years of complaints and disciplinary action against the teacher, who eventually was allowed to resign and keep his teaching license.

Although school administrators were aware of the allegations against the teacher, his conduct was not reported to the state Board of Educational Examiners. Current law does not set a deadline for school districts to report allegations of sexual misconduct to the state licensing board.

House File 637 would establish a timeline for reporting misconduct by certified school employees, according to bill manager Rep. Holly Brink, R-Oskaloosa. It would require schools to report actual misconduct or allegations of soliciting or consummating a sexual relationship with a student, falsifying grades or test scores, use of public property for personal use, and being at school or school events under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The bill would require school districts to make a report within 30 days of taking disciplinary action.

“The last thing we want is for these cases to go on in perpetuity,” Hinson said.

“We definitely do need to set some stronger parameters around this,” agreed Rep. Tracy Ehlert, D-Cedar Rapids, an early childhood educator.

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In the Linn-Mar case, a lawsuit filed by the parents of a student alleges the school district received multiple complaints from students and community members beginning in 2014 that the teacher inappropriately touched students and engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, including posting sexual content on his social media profile. A lawsuit filed in 2018 alleges the student was sexually assaulted by the teacher.

HF 637 was approved 96-0 and now goes to the Senate.

In other action, the House approved HF 599 to allow Iowans younger than 16 to hunt small game without a license if accompanied by their parent, guardian or other competent adult. It passed 86-11.

Licenses would be required for hunters younger than 16 to hunt deer and turkey.

In another vote, the House unanimously approved SF 304, which allows state licensed professionals to keep their credentials if they fall into default on their student loans.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Rep. Ray Sorenson, R-Greenfield. “Why would you take away their ability to earn a living when they are trying to repay their loans?”

The bill, which requires state licensing boards to adopt rules to prohibit the suspension or revocation of a license issued to a person in default or delinquent on repayment on federal student loans, was previously passed 46-0 in the Senate and now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds for approval.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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