New code of conduct bill gains ground after Marlborough School sex scandal

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A bill spearheaded by Marlborough School student Phoebe Kong looks to increase transparency of teacher codes of conduct.

A bill gaining support among state leaders would require schools to hand out an employee code-of-conduct to parents in an effort to help prevent abuse.

AB 2621, or Phoebe's Bill, was spearheaded by Marlborough School student Phoebe Kong and Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) after a teacher sex scandal rocked the elite private school.

The bill, for the first time, would make public the teacher code of conduct with students. The code is essentially a guideline for teachers outlining behaviors that aren't acceptable.

Phoebe said she wasn't looking to push teacher discipline, but said that AB 2621 looks to build transparency.

"If a little alarm is raised when a little boundary is crossed, we're much more likely to prevent a big boundary being crossed such as an actual sexual assault," Phoebe explained while appearing before the Senate Education Committee.

Two years ago, Marlborough School was hit by a sex abuse scandal involving long-time and well-liked teacher Joseph Koetters.

Koetters plead guilty to sexually abusing two students, one in 2000, and the other in 2004.

MORE: Former Marlborough School teacher gets jail time in sexual abuse case

"It definitely made me feel violated," Phoebe said.

Phoebe decided to take action and researched just how big a problem inappropriate teacher-student relationships were in schools.

She was surprised when she discovered 60 similar cases.

Phoebe also researched the behavior of child predators and how they groom their victims slowly and methodically over time.

"Say maybe a teacher offers to drive you home in their personal car, they offer to meet you to talk about a paper after school hours and not on school campus," Phoebe said.

Those actions are against the teacher codes of conduct at most schools, but students and parents may not know it.

Phoebe's Bill would change that, requiring all California schools to post their code of conduct on their public websites and mail them home at the start of every school year.

The bill has been well-received by local leaders and legislators in Sacramento, and by Priscilla Sands, the headmaster at Marlborough School.

"It empowers students and I think anytime you can empower girls, it's so critical because it gives them language and it gives the adults an understanding. It keeps us all safe," Sands said.

Phoebe's Bill passed the assembly with unanimous approval and is expected to pass the senate early next week.

From there, AB 2621 goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, and if approved, the bill could become law at all California schools by next fall.
Related Topics:
educationschoolsafetyschool safetyteacherlegislationbillssex scandalsex abuse against childrenstudent safetyLos AngelesLos Angeles County
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