Legislative Hall

Delaware's Senate nearly unanimously passed a bill that would ban people convicted of harming or sexually abusing children from being on school boards.

Sen. Laura Sturgeon's (D-Greenville/Hockessin) bill would require school board candidates to undergo the same background check as teachers, with the Delaware Department of Election being allowed to disqualify those who fail.

"The idea that someone with a record of harming children could run for a school board seat, or continue to hold that office after being charged which such a heinous crime as sexual misconduct towards a child, is unconscionable," Sturgeon said during the discussion before the 20-1 vote.

"While is it upsetting that we live in a world where we would even have to consider these possibilities, we cannot go another day knowing there is currently little that can be done once these cases come up."

The loophole became prevalent in 2019 when Colonial School Board member Ronnie Williams was charged with sexually assaulting multiple children.

The Colonial School Board at the time called for his resignation, but he did not resign until 2020, and his seat was only filled during Tuesday's school board elections.

In addition, SB 78 would require any school board member charged with a violent felony, a felony against a child, bribery, or abuse of office be automatically suspended until the case is resolved.

Sturgeon said there are only two lifetime bans included in the bill.

"There are only two crimes that would prevent a person for running from school board ever. Those are crimes involving harming a child through physical abuse, or any sexual abuse of a child. Other lesser, but still egregious, crimes do appear in the bill, but only create five-to-10 year bans for running for school board."

Senator Darius Brown (D-Wilmington) provided the only vote against the bill; his district includes part of the Colonial School District.