Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday signed into law a bill that makes the viewing of pornography on a school district's computer reason to revoke a teacher's license.
Before the law change, a teacher's license could only be revoked for immoral conduct. That is defined as conduct contrary to commonly accepted moral or ethical standards and that endangers the health, safety, welfare or education of any student.
The new law makes clear that immoral conduct includes using the school's computer to view, seek or download pornographic material.
The law also requires the state Department of Public Instruction to post the name of the license holder under investigation, as well as the results of the inquiry, on its website.
The legislation was introduced after the State Journal reported Chris Nelson, a New Holstein superintendent charged in January with soliciting a minor, had resigned as Madison's athletic director in 2005 after being caught with thousands of pornographic images on his work computer.
DPI reviewed the case at that time, but didn't have grounds for license revocation. The DPI records were destroyed in accordance with state law in 2008, a year before New Holstein hired Nelson.
The new law requires DPI to keep the records.
The legislation also came in response to a case in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, in which a teacher was fired in 2009 for downloading pornography, yet retained his teaching license while the case was appealed.
Walker said in a statement that the new law will help ensure that children are being educated by qualified teachers.
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The measure was one of seven bills Walker signed in Racine. Another bill Walker signed allows Wisconsin schools to discriminate against convicted felons when considering whether to hire or fire them. Current law allows for employers to discriminate against convicted criminals only if their offense directly relates to the job in question.
But under the new law, it will be legal for any public or private school to refuse to hire or to fire any convicted felon, whether their crime relates to the job or not.
The law applies only to felons who have not been pardoned.
"Schools and other educational agencies should be able to evaluate a potential employee on their criminal history," Walker said.
Walker also signed a bill that requires all school workers, from custodians to aides, to report any suspected child abuse. That is an expansion from current law which requires only teachers, administrators and counselors to report suspected abuse to county human services workers or local law enforcement.
The law prohibits anyone who makes a child abuse report in good faith from being fired or otherwise disciplined.
"This bill marks another important step in protecting children and providing safeguards to employees who report suspected child abuse or neglect," Walker said.
All of the bills were sponsored by Republicans but passed with bipartisan support.
— State Journal reporter Matthew DeFour contributed to this report.