SB 541 — Education – Personnel Matters – Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct Prevention

Committee: Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs

Position: SUPPORT

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the mutual public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. We offer this testimony in support of Senate Bill 541 on behalf of the families of more than 50,000 students served by over 150 PreK-12 Catholic schools in Maryland.

Senate Bill 541 establishes a process for public and nonpublic schools to determine whether prospective employees who have direct contact with minors have ever been disciplined for allegations of “child sexual abuse” or “sexual misconduct.” Importantly, the bill broadens the screening of applicants to include past history of conduct that may not be revealed through the criminal background checks that all schools are currently required to perform.

All Catholic parishes, diocesan schools, and youth programs observe stringent child protection measures beyond what is required by the State. Our institutions conduct mandatory criminal background checks on all employees and on volunteers who work with children, provide comprehensive awareness training to educate adults and children on how to recognize predatory behaviors, and promptly report all suspected incidents of child sexual abuse. Senate Bill 541 is consistent with these procedures and would enhance the ability of our schools to protect the children entrusted to our care.

We respectfully urge a favorable report on Senate Bill 541.