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MO Governor Signs Law Protecting Students From Sexual Abuse

Protecting public school students from sexual abuse by educators is the intent of a new law signed yesterday by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

Among other provisions, the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act” extends the statute of limitations for sexually abusing children and requires districts to report information about teachers who have committed this crime. Amy Hestir is an adult who has testified before Missouri lawmakers about a junior high school teacher she claims sexually abused her in the 1980s, although she was afraid to report the crime until well after the statute of limitations had passed.

Districts must now report child sexual abuse allegations within 24 hours. Also, when teachers who have sexually abused children lose their jobs, district employees are required to report this information to prospective employers calling for job references. Those reporting child sexual abuse receive civil immunity under the new law.

The statute of limitations for such crimes is now 30 years after the victim reaches the age of 18.

The act also requires districts to develop policies regarding teachers communicating with students using social media such as Facebook. These district policies must forbid teachers to communicate with students in this manner unless administrators and parents or guardians have access to the online conversations.

Mediation services will be available to the accused and the accuser.

Another provision of the act is the establishment of a Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse by Children charged with finding ways to prevent this crime.

About 70,000 public school teachers work in the state of Missouri. According to a 2007 Associated Press report, 87 Missouri teachers lost their jobs or received punishment for sexually abusing children between 2001 and 2005.

About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.


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