By Kotomi Yokokura, BASW Intern at Kentucky Youth Advocates

I was in high school when my teacher began texting me during and outside of school hours. He would work to gain my trust, offering me homemade food and taking interest in my personal life, all behind the closed doors of his office. While I did not know it at the time, these texts and one on one meetings would be the beginning stages of grooming and sexual abuse by my teacher. In the following years, he would emotionally manipulate me and engage in sexual contact.

My advocacy work started after I realized the gravity of my high school experience. I began researching the prevalence of educator misconduct and the loopholes that allowed this misconduct to continue in Kentucky and across our nation. During my internship at Kentucky Youth Advocates, I delved deeper into this subject, exploring the “pass the trash” phenomenon and discovering how many stories were similar to mine.

Therefore, when I was invited to testify on House Bill 288, a bill sponsored by Representative Tipton and related to educator misconduct, I knew it was something I needed to do.

Components of HB 288, including prohibiting schools from entering into non-disclosure agreements with teachers; ensuring schools are informed of allegations, investigations, and disciplinary actions when hiring applicants; and training employees on educator misconduct, are vital to protecting students. In my story, many adults observed the grooming occurring on school grounds; however, concerns were seldom raised or fully explored. This allowed the teacher to groom other students until I contacted the Kentucky State Police. HB 288 can provide important legislative guidance to help prevent this ability for teachers to continue to abuse.

HB 288 is vital in protecting Kentucky students and ensuring those who abuse children are not able to reenter the school system. Recently, the House Education Committee and the full House of Representatives passed HB 288. You can help protect Kentucky students by reaching out to your Senator and letting them know why HB 288 is important.

I hope to see HB 288 pass as I wish for my story of paralyzing fear, shame, and loneliness resulting from abuse by my teacher to be the last in Kentucky.

This post is part of the blog series, Intern Insights