Educators convicted of sexual misconduct against students will now face harsher penalties under new legislation approved by the General Assembly. The “Protect Our Students Act,” House Bill 142, will also help students be better equipped to understand appropriate teacher-student relationships.
Advocated by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, the Protect Our Students Act passed unanimously in the House in March, as well as in the Senate in September. House Bill 142 became law today when it was signed by the Governor.
Keeping student safety as its focus, the Protect Our Students Act has three components: standardizing definitions and increasing penalties for sexual misconduct committed by any educator, increasing penalties for those failing to report misconduct and producing an age-appropriate awareness video for students grades 6-12.
“We know the overwhelming majority of educators will never come anywhere close to violating the rights of students,” Truitt said. “However, I firmly believe that one instance of sexual misconduct is too many. This legislation protects and informs students, while outlining and increasing the penalties for offenders. We know school safety is top of mind for so many across the state. This is another important step to prioritize student well-being in school. I want to thank Representative John Torbett and Senator Amy Galey for their efforts to get this bill across the finish line in the General Assembly.”
Through the Protect Our Students Act, the Center for Safer Schools will produce and distribute an age-appropriate video for grades 6-12 to identify acceptable and unacceptable student-teacher interactions. The bill elevates sexual misconduct with a student to a Class G felony. An administrator’s failure to report sexual misconduct to the State Board of Education within five days is a Class I felony.
During the nearly seven years between January 2016 and October 2022, there have been 124 instances of sexual misconduct by educators involving students resulting in a license suspension, revocation or voluntary surrender. On average, this is 20 suspensions, revocations or surrenders per year that are related to sexual misconduct involving students. To view the publicly available full list of revoked licenses, click here.
A survey conducted last year by the education news outlet EdNC found that 82% of nearly 17,000 respondents rated school safety as a primary measure of school quality, underscoring the importance of school safety to North Carolinians.
House Bill 142 applies to all public, charter or nonpublic schools in North Carolina. The video produced by the Center for Safer Schools is required no later than June 30, 2024. The law requires that North Carolina public schools show the video to all students grades 6-12 by the fifth day of school.