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MOLESTERS COULD LOSE FLA. PENSION

A Senate bill aims at teachers, but includes all state employees.

Public officials or employees, not just teachers, would lose their state pensions if convicted of raping or molesting children under a bill introduced Wednesday by a Senate committee.

The Education Prekindergarten-12th Grade Committee unanimously voted to file the measure, although some senators questioned the pension penalty and other provisions. That includes one-year salary losses for school boards and superintendents who fail to investigate or report child abuse complaints.

The bill will return to committee for refining and amending, Senate President Pro Tempore Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, assured lawmakers who had raised questions. She had asked the panel to draft it.

Senate staffers said nonschool public officials and employees were included in the retirement penalty to avoid legal challenges on grounds that teachers were being treated differently.

There were no questions, though, about a provision that would prohibit school districts from signing confidentiality agreements with teachers accused of misconduct.

Some districts sign such agreements to avoid controversy, legal challenges or embarrassment. Those teachers then can seek jobs with other schools where officials are unaware of their problems.

The bill said the one-year salary loss would punish superintendents and boards if they knowingly make false or incorrect reports or fail to "ensure investigation of all reports of suspected or actual misconduct" by educators. Also, action could be taken against the licenses of teachers who fail to report abuse by colleagues.

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