Colonial members had known about the child rape allegations months before his arrest. After Williams was formally charged, then-Superintendent Dusty Blakey said the district was powerless under the law to take punitive action. Blakey also urged lawmakers to “strengthen’’ the law.
Sturgeon said her bill does just that in a variety of ways.
Beyond requiring that school board members be suspended and then removed unless they are exonerated of charges, it requires:
- Prospective local school board or state Board of Education members undergo the background check that educators and others who work with children must get.
- The state elections commissioner to determine that someone doesn’t have any disqualifying convictions before allowing them on the ballot. Beyond violent felonies, those crimes include any sexual offense a child and public corruption offenses such as bribery or abuse of office.
- Suspension of a charter school board member charged with a disqualifying offense.
Those members already undergo criminal background checks.
Sturgeon stressed that while school board members “may not be in schools daily, teaching children like teachers, they could have access to our schools. They can go and visit our schools. They’re trusted members of the community in there. And it’s assumed, right, that they are trustworthy around children because they are school board members.”
The requirements of her bill would provide an extra level of assurance to voters, parents, and children, she said.
Marinucci said he supports the bill and added that it’s not designed to deter citizens who have had minor misdemeanors, or been accused of misdeeds but not charged criminally, from running for school boards.
“We’re talking about you’re arrested, you’re in jail for a very violent crime,’’ he said.
Atnre Alleyne, who runs the education nonprofit Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now, said the bill is a positive step.
He remains flabbergasted that Williams could retain his seat on the Colonial board after being charged with sexual crimes against children.
Alleyne said students even asked him about Williams being able to remain in his seat, and said “the optics’’ alone were terrible. “That is not something that I think we want, as people that care about education.”