Webber safer schools child-protection legislation heads to governor’s desk

Press Release – Assemblyman Jay Webber’s bill to stop child predators in schools from easily changing jobs is now in the hands of Gov. Phil Murphy after the state Senate voted 38-0 Monday to give final legislative approval.

The state Assembly passed the legislation 73-0 earlier this month.

“We have a big loophole allowing predator teachers to continue sexually assaulting students simply by changing jobs,” said Webber (R-Morris). “Passing the problem to the next school district is unacceptable. With Senate approval today we are another step closer to stopping this appalling practice by forcing applicants to disclose if they have been investigated for sexual misconduct with a child. Requiring former employers to disclose if charges have been filed and requiring the hiring district to investigate any affirmative response that an applicant might give will give students the protection they need and deserve.”

Webber’s bill (S414/A3381) requires school districts to share information about sexual misconduct and child abuse investigations unless the claims were proven to be false or unsubstantiated, and grant school districts legal immunity. It also bans the separation agreements that force districts to destroy or withhold information about those probes.

Webber previously told the story of Jason Fennes, a former Montville High School teacher whose sexual assault of five female students spurred his suspension and resignation, before Senate and Assembly committee.

Fennes was then hired by a private school that confirmed his employment, but Montville was bound by a separation agreement preventing them from sharing his past abuse. Subsequently, he sexually assaulted a first-grade girl less than a year after his hire for which he is now serving a 14-year state prison sentence.

Senator Joe Pennacchio sponsors the Senate bill (S414).