by NW Spotlight
A 2006 editorial in the Oregonian commented on how Oregon children who are sexually abused by public employees don’t have the same protection under the law as children who are sexually abused by anyone else – including by Boy Scout leaders or priests.
House Republicans attempted to right that injustice this legislative session with HB 3541. But in a vote this week that fell along party lines, Oregon House Democrats decided that they cared more about the money and support they get from public employee unions than they care about the victims of sexual abuse.
Press Release from House Republican Office
SALEM, OR – A majority of House Democrats Thursday blocked a vote on legislation which expands the statute of limitations for civil suits against sexual abusers who are public employees. HB 3541 brings the statutes more closely in-line with those that apply to non-governmental organizations. Presently, the statute of limitations for victims to bring a civil suit against public employees for sexual abuse is only two years, compared to a much longer statute of limitation for victims to seek restitution against an abuser who was employed in a private organization.
“This is about protecting our children and it makes no sense that abusers receive greater protection just because they are public employees,” said Rep. Julie Parrish (R – West Linn/Tualatin) who is the chief sponsor of the bill. “Children abused by priests, scout leaders or daycare workers have greater protection than those abused by a public employees. It is unconscionable that by virtue of being employed by the government an abuser would be shielded from civil restitution for abusing a child.”
Earlier in the session, Rep. Parrish brought HB 3478 which received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. Testimony against the bill centered on the financial impacts which would be “crippling to public coffers”according to written testimony from Multnomah County. Other opposition came from Governor Kitzhaber’s Office, school boards, and special districts. The most damning testimony came from the Department of Justice who quantified an additional 20 victims per year would come forward if this legislation passed. The bill was watered-down and moved to the Ways and Means Committee to die.
“That the government can actually quantify how many additional sex abuse victims are out there who’ve been harmed by an adult working on behalf of Oregon makes my skin crawl,” Rep. Parrish said.
Ducking the vote – Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Clackamas)
One House member, Freshman Rep. Shemia Fagan, ducked the tough vote altogether. The web site ShemiaFagan.org commented “In one of the most startling and cowardly moves this session, Shemia Fagan hid-out to avoid taking a vote that protects children from sexual abuse by public employees,” and “When the bill was pulled to the floor of the House, Fagan was nowhere to be found. She arrived fashionably late just after the vote and her Democratic leadership covered it up by marking her ‘excused for house business.’ She had no committees or work groups at the time that would have trumped her responsibilities on the House Floor.”
It’s been tough for Freshman Fagan to protect minors this session. Besides abandoning victims of sexual abuse in this week’s vote, earlier in the session she sold out minors’ privacy – and then wasted one of her priority bills just to try to cover up her mistake.
Some recent examples of teacher sex abuse charges in Oregon
One category of sexual abusers who are protected by current law is public employees who work in Oregon public schools. Here are some recent examples of teachers and other school employees who have been charged with sex abuse in Oregon:
For an updated list, please click here.