House Passes Bill Making Schools Safer

April 30, 2016

Rep. William Tong listens to a comment before the House approves the legislation.

Rep. William Tong, House chairman of the Judiciary Committee, led the House of Representatives Saturday in approving legislation requiring boards of education to share with other boards findings of abuse or sexual misconduct by teachers. The legislation also increases the penalties for making a threat to a preschool, K-12 school or an institution of higher education.

Tong credited his Stamford colleagues, Representatives Daniel Fox, the Judiciary vice chairman, Caroline Simmons, Patricia Billie Miller and Livvy Floren, for championing the legislation and ensuring its passage in the House.

“As legislators we have to make sure that our children are safe, and this legislation addresses two major issues that have plagued our schools,” Tong (D-Stamford, Darien) said. “The Stamford delegation deserves a lot of credit for passage of this bill.”

One of the goals of the legislation is to ensure that local and regional boards of education have information concerning whether an applicant has been found to have committed abuse or sexual misconduct and that local and regional boards of education share findings with other boards of education who may otherwise unknowingly hire a sex offender.

“There have been incidents in this state where teachers have been accused and sometimes found guilty of sexual misconduct and child abuse involving their students,” Tong said.

“Unfortunately, there has been a practice among school districts, whether intentional or not, where one teacher who is suspected of wrongdoing or is (doing wrong) in one district has then moved on to another school district, and sometimes the receiving school district doesn’t have the information that it needs before hiring that teacher. We want to stop that practice,” Tong said.

If the legislation is signed into law, Connecticut would join Pennsylvania, Missouri and Oregon as the only states to require boards of education to share information on sexual abusers.

“We must make sure that boards of education are provided with all the information they need to make informed decisions in hiring is common-sense policy,” Tong said.

The legislation also addresses the need for zero-tolerance of threats of violence made in schools by increasing the criminal penalties for when a threat involves a preschool, K-12 school or an institution of higher education.

The Zero Tolerance legislation was created following a wave of bomb threats this year and last in Stamford and schools across the state.

“There should be zero tolerance for this kind of behavior, and we have to do everything we can to try to prevent it,” Tong said. “This legislation should send a crystal clear message – if you threaten our schools and our kids and our teachers, we are going to come down hard on you,” he said.

Stamford Academy this year was evacuated after school officials received a bomb threat. In the same week, Stamford High School and four other schools in Hartford, Bristol and West Haven were evacuated because of threatening phone calls. Police are investigating.