HB175 Should Help Protect Future Kids, Teachers and Districts

pic.jpgNothing saddens me more than to see that more children have been molested, sentencing them to a lifetime of recovery as they strive to deal with the situations they have been forced into by adults they should have been able to trust. One of today's headlines brings one of these stories to light.

 


(KUTV) School bus driver John Carrell was convicted, in October, of molesting young children while driving them to Alterra Elementary school in Sandy. He is currently serving 15 years to life for 19 criminal counts.

Carrell was 62 when he committed the offenses and he will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, but for one victim's family, it's not enough. They want the school district to be held accountable for their perceived role in allowing the abuse to occur.

Kevin Robson is the attorney for the family of a young girl who was five years-old when Carrell sexually assaulted her while she was a passenger on the special needs school bus he drove. On Monday, Robson filed a civil lawsuit in Utah's Third District Court. They are suing Canyons School District along with Mr. Carrell.

"The school district hasn't been punished. The school district's role in this case hasn't been vetted." says Robson, who's been disappointed with the way the district has handled the incident.

"My client hasn't gotten so much as an 'are you okay?'"

Canyons School District officials got word of the lawsuit on Wednesday morning, but had not yet been served with court papers.

"As a matter of course, the school district does not comment publicly on such matters of pending litigation," says School District spokesperson, Jeff Haney.

District officials say they provided the surveillance video evidence that was on-board the school bus and used to convict John Carrell, but Robson says it's not enough.

"This conduct could have gone on indefinitely, if it wasn't for the fact that some special needs child made a comment to her parents, which then alerted the school district," says Robson.

In a similar case, a civil lawsuit against the Davis School District was filed last year, for an incident involving a high school teacher accused of having sexual relations with some of the students. In December, that lawsuit was thrown out by a Utah judge.

Robson says this case is different.

"Different laws apply in a school bus than apply typically at school. There are a number of different claims that aren't the same as a teacher in Davis County with teenage boys."

The lawsuit against the Canyons School District is seeking $1-million in damages.

Whether or not the Canyons School District bears any burden in this case is unknown from the tiny amount of information in this article. But HB175, which builds upon last year's passage of Ivory's HB175 (Rep. Kraig Powell) will now require all potential employees of Utah's schools to sign a waiver that not only says that they have never been disciplined or had issues with sexual misconduct with a child, but also gives the school the legal ability to obtain the relevant information from appropriate past employers, giving them better information regarding past behavior that may not have led to a conviction. 

As this tragic case shows, it is not only teachers that must be vetted, but all employees that deal directly with children and have unsupervised access to students. Background checks have been done for years and do a good job of catching past convictions, but many molesters have dozens of victims before ever getting caught.

By doing our due diligence before hiring employees in our schools, we protect our children, and we also protect the reputations of our wonderful teachers, administrators, bus drivers and volunteers, whose reputations are tarnished every time a terrible incident like this happens. I'm so grateful that Rep. Powell for inviting me and other survivors to be a part of refining this bill. I'd also like to thank the many people in the community who came together to make this bill something that is a win-win for Utah, including, but not limited to The Utah School Districts Human Resources Association, The Canyon School District, The Utah School Board Association, and The Utah Education Association.

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