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New law focuses on sexual misconduct prevention for all schools statewide

Posted at 11:18 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 12:20:43-04

HARFORD COUNTY — A new Maryland law aims to give parents more peace of mind about the teachers and coaches in their children's schools.

We all remember the sex abuse scandal surrounding the USA gymnastics team doctor and just last school year, a former Mercy High School coach was charged with dozens of sex crimes against a student.

According to online court documents, he has 28 charges and his case is still active.

Right now, athletes are trying out for their fall sports and preparing for another school year. Teachers and coaches work with these students and athletes every day. This year, those employees have a longer hiring process because of house bill 486, which focus on preventing inappropriate sexual behavior.

The bill, signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan in April, requires any and all employees to have verification forms filled out by their previous employers where they had direct contact with minors. The law states this is to see whether they've ever been disciplined for allegations of child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct.

"There is a 20 day period in which these employers have in order to complete these forms. Bringing on these employees now as the school year is about to begin, it could be possible we have employees who cannot begin at the beginning of the school year because we are waiting for this process to be completed," said Shannon Hagan, the lead recruiter for Harford County Public Schools.

Hagan said they've always required standard background checks and child protective services background checks for all employees. However, this statewide mandate is a little more work.

"It is taxing the system because it is an additional administrative task. We were able to on-board our employees very quickly. In the past I could hire a custodian and have that custodian start within two days. Now it’s possibly a 20 day wait period in order to have this employee on-board, waiting for these forms to be completed," Hagan said.

She stressed any red flags are taken very seriously and always have been.

"If we do find any allegations that would preclude us from hiring we are very immediate on that action and make sure that employee is not in front of our students," Hagan said.

The law went into effect on July 1, so anyone who applied for a position on that date or in the future is affected by the law.