RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A new law signed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) Monday provides harsher penalties for teachers who engage in sexual misconduct. House Bill 142 also aims to increase education concerning sexual misconduct by educators.

The bill upgrades the charge of taking indecent liberties with a student from a Class I to a Class G felony.

Failure by school administration to report the misconduct to the State Board of Education within five days is now considered a Class I felony.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt applauded the passage and signing of the bill.

“We know the overwhelming majority of educators will never come anywhere close to violating the rights of students,” Truitt said. “However, I firmly believe that one instance of sexual misconduct is too many.” 

Truitt reported between Jan. 2016 and Oct. 2022, there have been 124 instances of sexual misconduct by educators involving students resulting in a license suspension, revocation or voluntary surrender. The numbers average out to about 20 suspensions, revocations or surrenders per year that are related to sexual misconduct involving students. 

In a statement, Truitt said in part, “I firmly believe that one instance of sexual misconduct is too many. This legislation protects and informs students, while outlining and increasing the penalties for offenders. We know school safety is top of mind for so many across the state. This is another important step to prioritize student well-being in school.”

The bill will also require schools to show an age-appropriate video to children in grades 6 to 12 to educate them on sexual child abuse. The Center for Safer Schools is tasked with producing the video. The law requires the video be showed by the fifth day of the school year.