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I-Team Investigates: "Passing The Trash;" How Some Pedophiles Move From One Classroom To Another

By Charlotte Huffman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A classroom is thought to be the safest place for a child to flourish mentally, physically, and emotionally. However, this safe haven is proving to be less safe than many would like to think.

Each year, hundreds of school educators are arrested nationwide for misconduct, including sexual and inappropriate relationships with students.

Tuesday, the Chester County District Attorney's office announced the arrest of a principal of a private school in Chester County.

Sixty-two-year-old George James Symonds, of Wilmington was arrested on charges he exchanged inappropriate and sexually explicit text messages, emails and phone calls with a teenage girl.

The arrest follows an investigation into his relationship with the girl who was a student at the Concept School in Thornbury Township, where Symonds was Head of School and a teacher.

Symonds' arrest brings the total number of educators arrested for misconduct with children to 16. Last year, that number was 26.

When compared to other states, Pennsylvania ranks second in the number of school educators arrested for sexual misconduct with students.

It's a serious crime that's happening more and more.

The I-Team dug through state records of all Pennsylvania educators who had their teaching certificates because of sexual-related incidents.

Over the past 10 years the number of educators who lost their teaching certificates amidst an accusation or conviction of having sex with students has increased 81 percent.

State education officials say educators who lose their license in Pennsylvania are prohibited from ever setting foot in a Pennsylvania classroom again because they are entered into a database.

But what about the educators who are never arrested, never lose their license and instead, quietly resign "in lieu of termination" and move on to another district where parents know nothing about the teacher's past?

Take the case of Paul Hochschwender for example.

The former second grade teacher in Darby Township plead guilty earlier this year to sexually abusing nine students, including some of his second graders.

The parents of two of the second grade victims have filed a lawsuit.

According to the complaint obtained by the I-Team, "these occasions were not the first improper contacts by Hochschwender with elementary school children in his charge."

Before being hired in Darby Township, Hochschwender had resigned from Radnor Township amidst "complaints that he had inappropriately groped or touched several female students," the complaint says.

The practice of pedophiles quietly resigning and moving on to work at another school, another district or another state is called "passing the trash."

In October of 2014, Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 168 into law which made "passing the trash" illegal in Pennsylvania.

But there's a loophole that allows many states to unload known pedophiles by helping them land a job in another state.

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey wants to close that loophole.

"It is so outrageous we sometimes can't really believe this is happening. It's happening," said Sen. Toomey during a press conference Tuesday at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The republican lawmaker has introduced legislation, The Protecting Students From Sexual and Violent Predators Act, which aims to put an end to "passing the trash" by making it illegal to knowingly pass the trash interstate and intrastate.

The bill which is expected to reach the senate floor for a vote sometime this week, would also streamline the backgrounding process of educators on the federal level.

It would require all school employees who have unsupervised access to students to undergo rigorous background checks, including substitute teachers, coaches, classroom aides and bus drivers who are not already subject to background checks in 12 states.

"Every arrest represents a tragedy, a child whose life was torn apart by grief, betrayal, self-blame, and pain. I know I was a victim," said Katlyn Pagaduan during Tuesday's press conference.

At age 14, Pagaduan was molested by a Deptford (NJ) High school track coach who was later convicted.

Kristen Wooley, Founder and Clinical Director at Turning Point Women's Counseling in York, also participated in Tuesday's discussion labeling child sex abuse an "epidemic."

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