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Va. Hires Specialist to Follow Up on Teacher Sexual-Misconduct Cases

UPDATED

From guest blogger Nirvi Shah

Of the hundreds of teachers whose licenses have been revoked or canceled in Virginia since 2000, at least 40 in just the past two years have been because of sexual misconduct with students or minors.

But there's no guarantee that teachers involved in such incidents will lose their licenses, because teachers can move from district to district without disclosing those cases. It's up to districts, court clerks, and social service agencies to report those to the state. Although background checks may stop a convicted teacher from getting a job in another division, some instructors hang onto their licenses because they resign before a case goes to court

In part to close that loophole, the Virginia Department of Education is hiring someone whose full-time job will be to follow up on cases in which teachers are involved in sexual misconduct, and the Virginian-Pilot reported this week.

Virginia has about 100,000 teachers, state education department spokesman Charles Pyle told me. So the cases aren't common, but "One case is too many and we've had more than one case," he said.

The new hire will work with districts—which have been required since 2008 to report teacher misconduct to the state board of education, Pyle said. That year, the state found dozens of instructors who were convicted of sex crimes but whose licenses were still valid.

While other states have entire commissions devoted to licensure and license renewal, Virginia has been stretched thin in this arena. Over the course of a year, the state processes about 8,700 applications for new licenses and 22,000 renewals, he said.

"This is something we've needed," Pyle said. The job will be paid for through fees teachers and hopeful teachers pay to apply for and renew their licenses.

In 2007, a newspaper investigation in Florida over teachers moving from one district to the next, despite having been punished for physically or sexually abusing students, led the state to create a public database that shows any action taken against teachers.

Getting cases of abuse reported in the first place is an entirely separate problem.

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