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Teachers and Sexual Misconduct

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In an investigative series that received national attention this week, the Associated Press reported widespread sexual misconduct by teachers, saying that it found "more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished" for sexual abuse. Many more cases, according to agency, went unreported. "There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to their work," the report notes. "Yet the number of abusive educators—nearly three for every school day—speaks to a much larger problem in a system that is stacked against victims."

What's your view? How can sexual misconduct by teachers be prevented? What can school systems do to keep abusive teachers out of the classroom? What can teachers as a profession do?

19 Comments

What is supposed to be, by its very nature, the most honorable and trusted profession is being transformed in this country into one of contempt and suspicion.
We, as a society, are to blame. We have, to the point of stupidity, separated God from our public schools. No, we do not need to be preaching the Gospel in the classroom. Yet let us not raise our collective eyebrows when a teacher says, "God bless you.", or "Merry Christmas", or makes references to a higher power as the impetus behind their conduct as a teacher.
I love my students and I tell them that occasionally. I am not afraid to put my arm around a child, K-12, male or female providing that they know me well enough and I have taken the time to get to know their parents/guardians. Trust must be built between a child, their parents, and their teacher. Without it, we dishonor the profession.

The AP needs to be sensational from time to time and has little discretion about the institutions that they attack to gain such sensation.

Without a doubt, there are instances of misconduct by people who gain access to the educational centers of our country...and in every other societal center...as in every other country in the world. The misplaced emphasis is on teachers as those seeking opportunity prey upon children under their charge. A more correct emphasis would be on those who seek opportunities to prey upon children by gaining access to the teaching profession through "governed" agencies that have become infiltrated and overrun by incompetent overseers. These "officials", often in the administrative and HR departments of school systems, colleges, and universities, are there not because they are the most qualified, but because of political and economic pressure to advance the less qualified at a lower cost or at a higher political benefit...or both.

Also contributing to the AP’s intended sensationalism and purposeful misconception, is the lack of mention in any of the articles that personnel policies, procedures and law prevented all actual data from being included. That data would include the hundreds of instances where teachers have been accused of misconduct; “tried” by school boards seeking the high ground, and as little public attention as possible; dismissed by the school board (or offered the chance to resign before dismissal); then later information that shows the teacher was falsely accused, but refused reinstatement. Without this information, the reported numbers become overwhelmingly untenable.

One other piece of data that is conspicuously absent is how many of the “perpetrators” are career changers or retired persons entering the educational field under relaxed requirements to satisfy the shortfall of teachers in specialized and other areas.

Tighten up all avenues of access to education, including administration positions, as well as appointments to positions in the school system personnel function, and there will be a greater opportunity to safeguard America’s children from sexual predators masquerading as teachers.

Statistics were used to make a powerful suggestion; that your child is at risk of becoming the victim of sexual misconduct.

This is how the AP arrived at its conclusion and sounded the alarm. 2500 documented consequences for sexual misconduct over 5 years is 500 per year. 500 incidents per year divided by the 180 day school year equals 3 a day.

The AP further promotes the illusion sexual deviants throughout the teaching profession by stating that "many more [incidents] go unreported". That is a statement of opinion used to evoke an emotional response.

In reality, using the same statistics can show how just unlikely it is for a student to become the victim of sexual misconduct in schools. Three incidents a day out of 3 million teachers = 1 in a million teachers committing sexual misconduct ,or .0001%, on any given day.

Now, factor in the number of schools there are across the country and the number of students attending those schools. The problem exists, but, unlike the statisics in the AP report suggest, the likelihood of your child being the victim of sexual misconduct is very low AND the number of sexual deviants teachers is one in a million.

In Morocco, we do hardly hear of sexual harrassment or abuse taking place in schools. This is not, I personally believe, mainly due to the country being islam-bound.

There should be a wee part that is missing in the puzzle, that is, something that exists in western schools and which does not hover over ours. I have the feeling that this little unknown element is a positive aspect in the system but which sometimes allows values to sisintegrate and relations to degenerate. I am still cogitating upon that cursed hole that causes the leak

The story is told that Jesse James was once asked why he robbed banks, to which Jesse replied that "that's where the money is." Why is it a surprise to find child sexual predators among teachers, since that's where the children are? There is no good way to keep them out of the teaching profession since many (if not most) will not have criminal records and there is no way that an interview can be structured to find them before employment--"are you a child sexual predator?" is probably not a very good question to ask in an interview. One answer might be the education of children to raise their awareness of inappropriate behavior of adults and what they should do if it happens to them--easy to say, but hard to do, especially among very young children.

If the article is correct, and there are 3 million teachers in the U.S., then 500 teachers in one year that have lost their jobs due to sexual misconduct seems small. I am not trying to make light of improper behavior from education professionals, but 500 out of 3 million is .0001%. Listening to the news reports would lead you to believe that your child is at risk from these predators. The numbers tell me that this isn't accurate.

Remove tenure and collective barganing from the school setting and you will allow administrators greater opportunity to effectively address any early signs of employee misconduct within the teaching and learning environment, particularly signs of sexual misconduct. With accountability now at the highest level in the history of public education, teaching children is not the place for tenure or collective barganing and each of these practices originated with the overall intent to protect the teacher, not the student. Annual employment contracts should exist that are supported by an effective evaluation process including professional conduct in the school setting. This approach may serve as protection for the students and for each of the moral and ethical teachers that love and serve children in this great nation. Administrators will then have the needed support for swiftly removing preditors that slip through the hiring process and impact the public's perception of our outstanding teachers. What is the AP research finding among private, charter, and home school populations? Statistical data must be compared across all populations prior to making informed conclusions.

To answer Dan/Superintendent, most private and religious school teachers and administrators are on one year contracts. There are rare incidents of teacher improprieties with students, however, they are usually detected before the student is physically harmed. Part of the reason for this rarity is that we are free to check their church affiliation and life style behaviors. The public schools cannot do this.

Dr. Rutherford is correct. When God is removed from anything, it leaves a moral vacuum. This vacuum will eventually be filled with the lowest common denominator. Do some serious research and compare the morals in public schools during the 1930's or 1940's with today. The correlation will be more than obvious. When God was taken our of our public schools, the morals and the education declined steadily after that.

Quoting Mark: "One other piece of data that is conspicuously absent is how many of the “perpetrators” are career changers or retired persons entering the educational field under relaxed requirements to satisfy the shortfall of teachers in specialized and other areas."

I usually don't take offense to posts and comments, but I switched careers to become a teacher, but not with the intent to commit sexual misconduct. By making a generalization like that, you're not any better than the AP.

I don't know if getting rid of bargaining/tenure is a solution either, especially considering its usefulness in other areas and the fact that it's a pie-in-the-sky wish. I do, however, think that something should be put into a tenured teacher's contract that such behavior requires immediate dismissal after the proper investigation has been conducted.

A story like this is not going to have much impact, except on those who already have an agenda. If you behave professionally and are aware of the line that shouldn't be crossed, then you're okay.

Every case of teacher misconduct is tragic and unacceptable. However, there are 3.6 million teachers in America. 2,500 cases over 5 years comes to an average of 500 cases per year -- out of 3.6 million. That doesn't make it widespread -- it comes to 1 out of 7,200 teachers.

I am not excusing a single case of misconduct, but trying to put it in perspective. Even with unreported cases, this is not widespread. I suspect that any randomly selected group of 3.6 million adults will have a higher percentage of child abuse and misconduct. I also suspect the percentage would be higher for nearly any other occupational group. Teachers as a group are caring and responsible people who have deep respect for the children we teach.

@ Frank Clark:

"Do some serious research and compare the morals in public schools during the 1930's or 1940's with today. The correlation will be more than obvious."

If your conclusions is more than obvious, can you please point to some of this research? Save us all the leg work if you have the answers.

Maybe our ideas about morals are different, but drug use has been declining since the 1970s, rates of teen pregnancy have been on the decline. That sounds pretty good to me.

Here are my sources- where are yours?
http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/or_teen_preg_decline.html

http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=3065

I also don't understand your theology. Are you saying God has turned his back on small children and allowed them to be abused because their class does not recite a Christian prayer every morning? Is Christian prayer the vaccine that will keep children from being molested? This has not borne out to be the case in real life. Sorry to disappoint you.

As for the AP study, I'll repeat what others have said here: educators being "punished" is not the same as educators actually being guilty.
This is not to take away from horrible things happening to some unfortunate child, but this headline is misleading and causing people with impaired logic to come to silly conclusions.

Abuse is abuse no matter what kind. As long as school staffs are permitted to abuse children any kind of abuse is allowed and the victims have no protection. In a due process hearing an aide testified about the screams of children being put in a storage closet as a behavior control affecting her teaching of the child she was assigned to and the judge saw nothing wrong because it is not an issue of the hearing. How much abuse of any kind is allowed in the schools because it is considered OK.

5/1/06 Collier County School Board Florida Susan Potantus severity assistant at Pine Ridge Middle School for an autistic child pages 70-71 lines 25, 1- 20: “Q Who was in this larger classroom to the top? A Her name was -- Debbie Slopek was the teacher. Q What kind of children were being taught in that room? A Those children were more severe. Q When you say severe, do you mean behavioral? A Behaviorally challenged. Q And if a behaviorally challenged child acted out do you know where they would bring those children? Did they separate them from the big classroom? A Yes. They would come into the hallway. Q And what would happen in the hallway? A The child would -- would -- usually if it was being very loud, if the student was being loud, they would put -- put them in the storage room. Q And I'm going to indicate the storage room with the – A Yes. Q -- circle. Is that what -- the room you're indicating? A Yes.” Page 72 lines 11-24: “Q Indicated as a circle, is this the room you were indicating – A Yes. Q -- that the children were placed in? A Yes. Q Would -- the noise of these children acting out or being -- having to be separated from the main classroom, would that disturb or interrupt your teaching of CHILD. in the X -- where the X is? A Yes. Q How often do you think that happened? A Well, there was a period of time -- and I believe it was towards the beginning of the school year -- that it happened regularly throughout the day daily.”

ESE EH students are at particular risk of sexual predation, as staff are usually believed instead of "those crazy kids." The typical response of school administrators when confronted with irrefutable proof of even multiple sexual misconduct in an ESE EH environment is to transfer the staff member, a habit administrators refer to with practiced cynicism as "passing the trash." Parental neglect of secondary-aged EH kids is legendary, so lawsuits rarely occur.

Thus EH secondary school environments become known among sexually predatory teachers as havens for predation, as was the the Roman Church in America for so many years. Pathological environments attract pathological personalities.

As to Mark's calumny about second-careerists and sexual predation, of the three sexual predators I've known--out of a staff of 43--all were career educators of many years experience. One was finally transferred to an elementary school, one left to teach in another state, certificate intacto, and one still struts her stuff, protected by a management structure that hears, sees and speaks no evil.

I am currently a grad student at the Maryland Institute College of Art,going for my Masters of art and education.I've been researching editors with an American school systems. for my research I found that our school systems need to be updated, and it made new hiring strategies that go deeper than a degree fingerprinting and background check. Teachers need to be evaluated on a higher standard. There simply are too many teachers out there that do not know how to protect themselves properly. I found that teachers do not know they can be emotionally damaging to children and use common methods that if overused will be emotionally. Educators in our system do know to be careful, but there is no set document in place, stating, what can and can't be done. They're not even separate laws written specifically for teachers even though we are not interact with children on a day-to-day basis. You figure there would be a more controlling system in place to watch over our children nationwide. But there is not. Most teachers when accused of sexual misconduct have the option of giving up their license within that state, but they always can just move to a different state. These predators have to be watched and their licenses have to be taken away. If they are found to be true predators.In the end there simply has to be a more watchful standard for who is being hired in schools. But in America, we are now facing a teach a teaching shortage and our government is trying to create quick fixes for bigger problems.

When I hear a grad student labeling teachers as "predators" I am forced to write this. The writer (11/07/2007) will discover soon enough, when such allegations are applied to her/him, and she has no way to defend against them.

I am a retired NYC teacher, and I know why sexual abuse charges have reached epic proportions.

It is so simple, you see THE DEPARTMENTS OF EDUCATION MUST USE A SERIOUS CRIMINAL ACT, IN order to BYPASS a TEACHER's contract and to remove any teacher IMMEDIATELY AND WITHOUT RECOURSE TO THE LAW, for any reason, (I.e. because their salary is larger than a novice teacher or they see bad educational practice, or they witness unreported bullying, drug abuse or sexual harassment by students on students, or they are disliked for personal reasons by a principal or powerful parent--often for failing or disciplining their kid-etc, etc ad nauseum).

ONCE INCARCERATED until a 'hearing' (not to be confused with a genuine legal proceeding) often 3 years away, in dingy,windowless district offices, where they need permission to go to the bathroom, their efforts to be heard fall on deaf ears, and the media gets the story from the culprits not the victims. In this BUSH era of SPIN, this should be easily understood!

This TEACHER ABUSE is about to make national news in a new book, but the now infamous RUBBER ROOMS) is already making the pages of the NY Times... WHY NOT GOOGLE THAT PHRASE!

I am an award winning educator, and a celebrated teacher, who blew a whistle, AND WHOSE VERY SUCCESS THREATENED PEOPLE IN POWER, and I faced the wrath of the failed human beings who run our educational systems.

Using the LIES of a 12 year old, WHO COMPLAINED that I had called her names, I was removed on "corporal punishment charges" which even if i said the words in front of 30 kids (am I insane to say such things as an NYSEC Educator of Excellence) would not be such a heinous thing AS PHYSICAL ABUSE, as my attorney pointed out.

With no trial, no investigation, and no hearing the Superintendant of the district said I was "found guilty" ( by her and her cronies) and even though they had to return me to the school ( or face a 40 million dollar lawsuit) , I was never returned to my award winning curriculum or the classroom that I had built over 8 years; the 1000 books that I had purchased with my own money and all my wonderful materials were stolen and distributed to other teachers. I was given a progam doomed to fail, so they could document my sudden incompetence. I was harassed in unimaginable ways, to the horror of the parents and students who wrote endless letters to no avail.

I, whose teacher-practice and classroom was studied (and filmed) for years by The University of Pittsburgh for HARVARD'S research which became THE NEW STANDARDS, never got to mentor new teachers with my experience. I never got to send another thousand kids to the best high schools with reading and writing scores at the top of the city. I ran for my life and my sanity.

The Associated Press is looking for a good story, and pointing the finger at the 'bad teachers," has left our school system in tatters.

For decades this media debacle has been just what the political beasts at the top need in order to point a finger of blame AWAY from their ineptitude, and criminal behavior.

Soon, however, the story will unfold, how professional Americans who are wonderful, dedicated care-givers are being denied the rights guaranteed by the CONSTITUTION to a fair trial, a right to confront their accusers and see evidence, and to have the right to habeas corpus BEFORE THEY ARE INCARCERATED IN RUBBER ROOMS,

I invite every one of you who read this, and who are being harassed by administration, or who know of such abuse, to go to these sites, particulalry NAPTA (below) and to INUNDATE the press with YOUR stories, and make them reveal the real tragedy, THE WAR ON TEACHERS that is killing the education of our kids by removing the best educators in the most egregious manner. Sexual abuse indeed!

Until then, here are the sites where the stories are told.
www.endteacherabuse.org
NAPTA
Karen Horwitz, Editor

www.parentadvocates.org
PARENT ADVOCATES AND E-ACCOUNTABILITY FOUNDATION
Betsy Combier, Editor & Founder

http://nycedadvocates.blogspot.com
NYC EDUCATION ADVOCATES
Dr. Lenny Brown, Polo Colon and Betsy Combier, Editors

http://teacheradvocacygrpnyc.blogspot.com
TEACHER ADVOCACY GROUP (TAG)
Jodeam

http://getupstandupforurrights.blogspot.com
GET UP AND STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS
Henry Funes, Editor

http://teacheradvocacylongisland.blogspot.com
TEACHER ADVOCACY LONG ISLAND
Dania Hall, Editor

http://qui-tam.blogspot.com
QUI-TAM MEANS: DON'T BE AFRAID TO BLOW THE WHISTLE!
Polo Colon, Editor


www.teacherabuse.com
TEACHER ABUSE IN THE NY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
(Features NYS Ed’l Law 3020-a and NYC Secret Guide on Firing Teachers)
Boubakar S. Fofana, Editor

As a Grandparent I am concerned about sexual misconduct within the educational system. It is not only a problem in our public schools, but a substantial risk exists in the private and parochial schools.

In my opinion, the problem is not only with teacher - student relationships, but also relationships between teachers, teachers and students parents, etc. Need I go on!

Ultimately the issue falls on the lap of the individual and their personal character and integrity. Unfortunately, in today's world those are not two traits given much thought in all quarters of society.

I am dealing with an issue where an employee of a parochial school my grandchild attends has been seeing my son-in-law intimately. This gives me grave concern for the safety of my grandchild, but also gives rise to the level of integrity and reliability of an individual who has access to and responsibility for the well being of all of the children. Not to mention the potential impact that their conduct may have on the reputation of the school itself.

Government, more government and more rules are not the answer. A return to concrete right and wrong - morality and away from situational ethics is long over due at the individual level.

It isn't learned in school. School may only serve as a litmus test of the character and integrity of the individual.

This has nothing to do with the sensationalism in the media as mentioned above. It really has to do the repugnant conduct of the individuals.

What source was used to get the statistics and where can I obtain the results from? I keep reading about the results from the survey, and I want a direct source from the Associated Press.

I moved and worked in Florida for 2 years. Eight hurricanes later I was ready to leave. That and the fact after being hired as a special ed. assistant. I had 21 years experience in New York.( New York continues to lead the nation in active and advanced teaching of special needs people. I worked with a teacher who had lost her autistic son in an accidental drowning. I was surprised to see the teacher, clinicians, and administrators drop the ball on how to deal with troubling behaviors. The teachers response to an behavior was to literaly put the boy in a storage room where there was a computer, filing cabinets, etc and lean on the door as to prevent the boy from getting out. A clinician witnessed this and did nothing. By the end of the semester, the teacher and I were at each others throats. I quit. As far as I can tell Florida has no idea how to teach special needs people.

School administrators and school board officials can stop brushing offenses under the table by reporting offenses to their licensing agency. No teacher guilty of sexual misconduct, no matter how minor, should not have to answer for their actions. Every state has a licensing agency that will conduct an investigation, discipline the teacher if necessary, record offenses, and remove a license when necessary. These licensing agencies will also press legal charges where necessary. We have got to stop allowing teachers to resign after an offense without reporting it to the authorities of that state so they can just move on to another school district or state and committ sexual misconduct again. Before you know it, you will be hearing about that teacher in the news!!!

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