- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

RICHMOND - The state has tightened its education licensing system to ensure that teachers who sexually abuse children aren’t allowed to return to the classroom.

A law effective July 1 will require courts to promptly notify local school divisions when teachers are convicted of felony sexual offenses involving children or felony drug crimes.

It also will require school boards to inform the state Board of Education after they fire teachers or accept their resignations as a result of such crimes. School divisions must notify the state when a teacher is the subject of a legally proved complaint of child abuse or neglect.

The legislation followed a national Associated Press investigation of license revocations from 2000 through 2005 that involved teachers sexually abusing students. In Virginia, a teacher named Michael Wayne Allee was able to get a job and molest children in more than one jurisdiction because of a lag between when he committed the abuse and when he was disciplined.

Under the law, the Board of Education must spell out its guidelines for denial, suspension, cancellation and revocation of teachers’ licenses. Each local school board must develop and annually review policies and procedures for how it will handle sexual abuse complaints.

Local social services departments also must inform the state Superintendent of Public Instruction when a licensed teacher is the subject of a legally proved complaint of child abuse or neglect. The state Board of Education must revoke the teaching license of anyone who has resigned because of convictions for felony crimes, sex offenses and drug offenses or because the person is the subject of a legally proven case of child abuse or neglect.

The state Department of Education requested the legislation, and Gov. Tim Kaine signed it into law last month. It will close gaps that have made it possible for teachers who abuse students or commit other violations to be hired again in the time between when they’re terminated at the local level and when the Department of Education, which issues and revokes teaching licenses, finds out.

The measure strengthens three main areas: communication between the court system and education officials; communication between local school divisions and the state Department of Education; and scrutiny of school divisions’ sexual-abuse policies.

An AP review of state Department of Education files and court documents showed that Mr. Allee got a job as a special-education teacher at Nelson County Middle School for the 2003-04 school year - after he’d already been accused of sexually abusing three girls in Bedford County, where he had taught high school the previous year. He then molested two female students at the middle school before the state acted on the earlier case and revoked his teaching license in October 2003 - five days after Nelson County suspended him. Mr. Allee pleaded guilty to sexual battery in the Nelson cases and served seven months in jail.

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