In Connecticut, a state senator is pushing for a new piece of legislation which would allow public school officials to expel students who had been convicted of violent sex crimes. The bill was introduced after a constituent discovered that her children would soon be in school with a babysitter who had molested them. The school district had no authority to expel him, or even hold a hearing.
“It’s a re-victimization of these kids and they shouldn’t be subjected to that,” said the senator, Kevin Witkos. “Not only have they suffered physical harm, but there’s also the psychological harm they have to experience every day.”
Because Connecticut’s constitution guarantees students a free education, they would have to be provided with an alternate means for education. And students can actually be suspended or expelled for sexual misconduct committed on school grounds. School boards can also expel students for selling drugs, weapon use, or gang violence. But sexual assaults are not among the off-campus crimes for which students can be expelled.
Other legislators are concerned because the wording of the bill seems to make expulsion mandatory. But it’s also unclear whether this will actually make a significant change to the existing legislation. It’s unclear whether, under the non-mandatory wording, the victim would have to call for the hearing, or whether the school officials would be expected to keep tabs on every student convicted of sexual assault even if they don’t subject them to expulsion hearings. The new proposal would apply only to students convicted of violent sex crimes involving first-degree rape, using a weapon to commit a rape, or kidnapping as part of a sexual assault.
And although it doesn’t seem to have been used in this instance, expulsion hearings can occur for any issue that is deemed “seriously disruptive of the educational process.” Which surely includes a rape survivor having to try to learn with his or her convicted perpetrator in the room or school.
In other words, this seems like a fairly meaningless piece of legislation. And although of course it’s always good for politicians to acknowledge that rape survivors should not have to work in close proximity with their rapists (something that is surprisingly difficult for some educators, as proven by the case of the cheerleader who was kicked off her squad for refusing to cheer for her rapist), this seems like a clumsy, confusing and even potentially damaging way to go about it. In any case, though, the bill seems likely to pass.
Photo from Flickr.