What is "passing the trash"
It’s called “passing the trash.” What this colorful phrase means, is that teachers who may have had sexual abuse allegations lodged against them are allowed to resign quietly. By quietly leaving, the teacher is allowed to transfer to another school district with a clean record. Most times, nothing about the allegations are noted in the teacher’s personnel file.
At Marlborough School, an elite all-girls private school in Hancock Park, Los Angeles, the sexual abuses of students went unreported for many years and predators were silently shifted school-to-school.
"Passing the trash" is not limited to just schools and teachers. A San Jose-based church provided an excellent recommendation to a daycare center despite its knowledge of the applicant’s sexual misconduct while employed at the church.
How "passing the trash" helps problem teachers move schools
This practice goes on across the nation’s schools on a regular basis. There are some reasons this practice endures, including loopholes in background checks, teachers’ union contracts with school districts, deficient employee training, and the desire for schools to protect their image and reputation.
In recent years, however, legislators as well as activists against the practice, have begun to push for laws which would prohibit this practice, and stop predators from gaining access to children.
Every Student Succeeds Act meant to prevent "passing the trash"
When former President Barack Obama signed the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) in 2015, there was a section included which was intended to prevent school employees who have engaged in sexual misconduct with students from merely starting over in another school district. Before that federal law kicked in, several states began their bans on "passing the trash," with Pennsylvania becoming the first state to mandate investigation, discipline, firing or resignations (without being transferred to another school district) when allegations of sexual misconduct are present.
States beginning to legislate their own "passing the trash" prohibitions
Other states, including Connecticut, Nevada, Oregon, Missouri and Washington quickly followed suit, with New Jersey being the latest to enact legislation.
Although Oklahoma and Texas have strengthened their teacher reporting laws, they still allow confidentiality agreements and collective bargaining contract clauses which enable school districts, in conjunction with teachers’ unions, to conceal sexual misconduct, protecting teachers who have abused the trust of their students.
In a letter from State Senator Anthony S. Williams of Pennsylvania advocating for similar legislation as was passed in Pennsylvania, Williams noted that before the Pennsylvania legislation was passed, there were “hush” packages handed down to teachers accused of sexual misconduct, with many of these packages even including letters or recommendation. Incentives were offered to these teachers out of fear of embarrassing revelations or costly litigation.
Some of these teachers continued to receive taxpayer-funded health benefits, and occasionally, the teachers voluntarily surrendered their teaching certificates in place of legal actions. Pennsylvania school districts now allow employers to ask prospective teachers whether they have ever been the subject of sexual abuse or misconduct investigation. The school district must disclose whether a teacher left their employment under pending allegations of misconduct and whether the applicant has ever been disciplined or asked to resign. Any agreement which would potentially suppress this information is now prohibited.
Stopping schools from "passing the trash"
The sexual abuse attorneys at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard support the excellent work of S.E.S.A.M.E. (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct Exploitation). The group is working to pass similar legislation in California.
Contact us if you or a loved one are victims of "passing the trash"
If you or a loved one have been a sexual abuse victim of a teacher with a history of inappropriate behavior with students, turn to the law firm of Corsiglia McMahon & Allard. We have the experience to hold schools accountable for their failures. Call us at 408-289-1417 for a free consultation and case review.