Wisconsin's state Assembly has passed a bill that would make watching pornography at work reason to revoke an educator's license.
The bill passed through the state Senate last month, and fortifies a current policy that has permitted teachers watching pornography on school district computers to relocate and teach at another school district without having the reason publicized, The Sheboygan Press reports.
Currently, a law exists that permits license revocation for incompetency or immoral conduct, defined as behavior that endangers the health, safety, welfare or education of a student. The new provision would add to "immoral conduct" the intentional use of school equipment to "download, view or distribute pornographic material in violation of the educational agency's policy."
The bill also calls for publicly posting the names of educators who are investigated for violating the policy on the school's website.
“Parents have every reason to expect their child’s school building will be free from pornography, and school leaders have a responsibility to keep our schools safe,” Republican state Rep. Steve Kestell said in a statement after the Senate passed the bill last month. “This legislation will make it easier for local school leaders to provide a safe environment.”
Kestell and Republican state Sen. Luther Olsen co-authored the bill, which now heads to Gov. Scott Walker for consideration.
The legislation was drafted in response to several cases in which school districts were unaware of an educator's past misconduct in another district or were faced with lawsuits by educators who were dismissed for watching pornography in school.
In May, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that the Middleton-Cross Plains School Board had spent around $300,000 over the course of a year while battling a complaint by former science teacher Andrew Harris, who was fired for viewing pornography at school. Seven other high school staff members and one administrator were also investigated and disciplined for similar misconducts.
Kestell and Olsen's bill doesn't come without costs. The submitted fiscal estimates show that the new provision would increase costs that would not likely be absorbed within current budgets.
While the legislators note that it's unclear whether the added clause would lead to more reporting by school administrators, the launch of an investigation by the state superintendent would cost the education department $350 for docketing a hearing into a complaint and $135 per hour for pre-hearing conferences, hearings, research, writing and travel costs.
The state would also likely have to hire experts to determine and define at those hearings what is considered pornographic material.