The Dire Consequences of “Passing the Trash” in Sexual Abuse Cases

The NY Times recently exposed how private schools handle allegations of sexual abuse. The story focused on how Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite Connecticut boarding school, mishandled allegations of sexual abuse by teachers for decades.

According to the Times, “For many years, when teachers at private schools were forced out over claims of sexual misconduct, administrators let the accused quietly move on to teach elsewhere. The pattern was so common it earned its own grim moniker: ‘passing the trash.’”

Investigations concerning private school sexual abuse around the country have shown that dismissing the offending teacher without notifying authorities or maintaining a public record of the allegation has allowed these teachers to abuse again and again.

The Times’ article notes:

A report released this month by Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite Connecticut boarding school, is filled with instances of men who had been accused of sexually abusing students, yet were allowed to keep teaching. Now accusations have emerged that two of the men may have abused students at other schools.

Two women have come forward to accuse one former teacher, Frederic Lyman — who was forced to leave Choate over claims of sexual misconduct in 1982 — of inappropriate behavior while he was on the faculty at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., before he came to Choate.

After leaving Choate with a recommendation, he got a job at a school in Colorado, Kent Denver.

This isn’t an isolated incident.  There are reports of public and private schools sweeping under the rug allegation of sexual abuse only to have the offender repeat the behavior at another school or institution.

Five states, including Connecticut, have enacted “pass the trash” bills that aim to keep teachers who commit abuse from cycling to other schools. Some of these laws prohibit school districts from entering into agreements with abusers that may suppress information about sexual misconduct, for example, or they might require applicants to disclose if they were ever the subject of a sexual misconduct investigation, unless the charges were proved false.

So-called “pass the trash” laws should be passed in every state if they are to be effective.  Otherwise, such states that don’t have these laws will be targeted by sexual predators looking for work in states where they will be less likely to be caught.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, California, and other states.

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