Lawmakers cracking down on sexual abuse cases - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Lawmakers cracking down on sexual abuse cases

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PEORIA, Ill. (WEEK) -

Lawmakers want to crack down on sexual abuse involving students and teachers. An investigative report by the Chicago Tribune about sex abuse in Chicago Public Schools said over the last decade police investigated more than 500 cases of sexual abuse and violence against students. Lawmakers are now drafting a new state bill to make sure these kinds of cases stop.  

The Chicago Tribune reported the proposal would require teachers to have a record clear of sexual abuse before they can receive a state license.

It also said when students reported abuse, teachers and principals sometimes fail to call child welfare investigators. 

It would also make it a crime for school employees to have sexual contact with a student, regardless of a student's age. Under the current law, sex with a student is legal if the student is 17 or older. 

As for Peoria Public Schools, sexual abuse is a reoccurring issue. We sat down with Dr. Sharon Kherat, Superintendent of Peoria Public Schools, and got her reaction.

"We are in favor. We have no objection," said Kherat.        

Since 2013, four Peoria Public School teachers were arrested and three were sentenced in sexual abuse cases. 

Kherat said she shakes her head and asks what these people are thinking. 

"We have some individuals who are sick and they should not be near kids," said Kherat. 

For Peoria, they recently adopted a new policy. 

"In 2017 we adopted the sexual misconduct policy. Essentially it's you're not to engage, you're not even to attempt to engage," stated Kherat. 

She also said the district has been more aggressive and proactive. 

"I'll tell you, the punishment is harsh. If there's a whimper of some kind of infraction, there are immediate steps that are taken," said Kherat. 

Reports said the bill would allow school staff to interview a student reporting abuse only once and would set guidelines for parental involvement. 

"We listen to our kids. We support them and we engage with the family," added Kherat. 

Kherat said she won't put up with offenders.         

"And really just expose and embarrass folks. Hopefully that will reduce and eliminate this moral and societal problem," she added. 

Kherat said they do background checks on teachers before hiring. 

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