Calif. Assemblyman Mike GattoSACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, the California State Assembly took action to prevent child abuse in our schools and track those accused of crimes against children, by passing AB 349 with a bipartisan vote of 71-0. The bill creates a landmark, statewide, information system to help prevent repeat offenders from retaining employment at a different school. Currently, there is no institutional reporting system for allegations against classified school employees that do not lead to an arrest or prosecution.

AB 349 also requires reporting to the Department of Education whenever a classified employee – such as a teacher’s aide, bus driver, office assistant, or groundskeeper – is dismissed, resigns, is suspended, retires, or fired as a result of a child abuse allegation or while an investigation of alleged abuse is pending. Current reporting requirements only require immediate reporting of child abuse allegations against certified teachers, not classified employees or other personnel that do not maintain the same credentials as teachers.

“We shouldn’t allow ignorance and misinformation to serve as an excuse for inviting child abusers into our schools,” said Gatto. “AB 349 is a common-sense approach that holds all school employees to the same reporting standards.”

The legislation was spurred by a November 2012 report from the State Auditor entitled “Los Angeles Unified School District: It Could Do More to Improve Its Handling of Child Abuse Allegations.” The report found that there is no centralized mechanism to share information about the circumstances under which a classified employee leaves one school district to find employment in another district. Without such a system, a classified employee that is fired, resigns, or settles during the course of a child abuse investigation that does not result in an arrest or conviction can easily return to work in another school district.

“Protecting our children from predators while preserving the rights of individuals to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is a delicate balancing act,” said Gatto. “AB 349 maintains this balance with a simple reporting system that will provide hiring administrators the information they need to keep children safe.”

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood.