Making a difference….in MissouriPosted by Jack Howser on Monday, May 16th, 2011 @ 3:05 pm.
The mess that former Saline County chief deputy/Harrisburg board of education president Todd Fort made for himself last summer made national headlines, but as his multiple charges of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault, Official Misconduct and Theft of Government Services inch closer to a date with a jury June 13, the coverage has become practically non-existent. Most of mainstream media’s attention span measures about that of a sand gnat, and since their interest isn’t really in justice in the situation, there will likely be little until a jury is actually selected.
However, our coverage continues, and as a matter of fact is going to be intensifying as we approach the court date, as there are certain pieces of the Fort puzzle we’ve been holding off writing about until we knew whether or not he was going to take a plea or go forward with the jury trial.
Sometimes it gets to the point where we wonder if the public’s attention span to issues of such importance as Fort’s case has been reduced to that of a sand gnat, too.
Then we get an email like the following, received earlier today, 05.16.11:
“Mr. and Mrs. Howser
“I enjoy reading the online version of your newspaper. I have been away from Southern Illinois for over twenty years but still feel like that is home. I thought you might be interested in one positive aspect of the Fort case. For the past ten years I have been a member of the Board of Education of the Grain Valley R-5 School District which is a fast growing district near Kansas City. After reading your articles relative to the charges against Fort, I became curious whether Missouri had a similar statute. I found while there wasn’t a similar statute, there was Section 566.086 that covered sexual contact with students on school property. The problem with this section, however, was that its scope was limited to school property. I worked with our State Representative, Jeanie Lauer to amend this section. She sponsored legislation (HB743) to remove all references to school property and to add Elected Officials to those covered by the Statute. Our State Senator, Will Kraus introduced similar legislation (SB400).
“Unfortunately both pieces of legislation stalled. Senator Kraus, however, was able to add the changes to another piece of legislation (HB111) which passed both chambers. Once the Governor signs this legislation, any sexual contact with a student of a Missouri public school by school personnel will be a Class D Felony regardless of the student’s age. While the punishment for a Class D Felony is mild, this does provide a basis for disciplinary actions on both the local and state level.
“Anyway, I thought you might be interested. I thank you for what you do. You are shining a light into dark places that have existed for years.
Many kudos need to be extended to these legislators who exerted the effort to ensure this language was in their proposed laws. Hopefully this will push right through. There is a lot we can do to protect our kids….and it starts in the school system.
And kudos to this concerned reader who took it upon himself to help design such legislation….never underestimate the power of holding a public office. THIS is the reason why we need to be careful during our elections, and even before the elections, ensuring there are decent candidates, like Mr. Hutchinson, up for the jobs.
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