Seattle Times: Washington lawmakers may push colleges to share sexual misconduct findings against employees

The Seattle Times published a story on legislation I am introducing to require our state’s higher education institutions to share information about sexual misconduct by employees, to prevent abusive faculty and staff from jumping between schools.

Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, has drafted a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would require applicants to post-secondary institutions to disclose ongoing investigations or substantiated findings of sexual misconduct, and to allow their previous employers to disclose related information to the colleges. It would also require college officials to request this information about applicants and share it if contacted for a reference check, according to a draft reviewed by The Seattle Times.


The lawmaker, also a professor of public health at the University of Washington, has worked with the state’s public colleges on the bill, which he intends to prefile for the legislative session that begins Jan. 13. Pollet said college presidents have expressed a desire to end the practice commonly referred to as “passing the harasser,” but that they’ve felt sharing that type of information was legally risky in the past. He hopes to make colleges’ responsibilities and legal protections clear in the law.


“As an attorney, I get it,” Pollet said. “But the institution’s job is to say, ‘I’m going to do the right thing to protect students at our institutions. And I might be sued, but I have a legal defense that I think is valid.’”


The lawmaker said he was pushed to act after The Seattle Times reported that a former University of Washington athletic executive was able to become vice president of another college without a finding of sexual misconduct following him. The Times found Washington’s public four-year colleges lacked processes to learn about and disclose applicants’ history of sexual misconduct.

Read the story here.