Sunday, October 21, 2007

AP Reports: Sexual misconduct plagues U.S. schools,

I don't even bother posting when I find a news article about a teacher or other school employee getting in trouble (or not) for inappropriate behavior. This article just makes it even more depressing. What are people thinking?

[ . . .] These are only a few instances of a widespread problem in American schools: Sexual misconduct by the very teachers who are supposed to be nurturing the nation's children. Students in America's schools are groped. They're raped. They're pursued, seduced and think they're in love.

An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.

There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to their work. 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.

And no one -- not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments -- has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.

Beyond the horror of individual crimes, the larger shame is the institutions that govern education have only sporadically addressed a problem that's been apparent for years.

"From my own experience -- this could get me in trouble -- I think every single school district in the nation has at least one perpetrator. At least one," says Mary Jo McGrath, a California lawyer who has spent 30 years investigating misconduct in schools. "It doesn't matter if it's urban or rural or suburban."

Like Lindsey's, the cases that the AP found were those of everyday educators --teachers, school psychologists, principals and superintendents among them. They're often popular and recognized for excellence and, in nearly nine out of 10 cases, they're male. While some were accused of abusing students in school, others were cited for sexual misconduct after hours that didn't necessarily involve a kid from their classes.

The overwhelming majority of cases involved public school teachers, since many private schools don't require a teaching license. Even when they do, their disciplinary actions are not a matter of public record.

Why are these just disciplinary actions and not going so far as to involve the court system??

Two major teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, each denounced sex abuse while emphasizing the need to consider educators' rights.

Educators' rights. But no mention of the children's rights. Figures, coming from the NEA.

The AP discovered efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help.

School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession.

More states now require background checks on teachers, fingerprinting and mandatory reporting of abuse, though there is still a lack of coordination among districts and states.

U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the last 20 years on civil rights and sex discrimination have opened schools up to potentially huge financial punishments for abuses, driving some schools to act.

And the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification keeps a list of educators who've been punished for any reason, but only shares the names among state agencies.

Another problem: Because teachers are often allowed to resign without losing their credentials, many never show up on the list.

Why only among state agencies? What help is the list if many aren't even on it? I really hope this article gets a lot of attention. Parents with children enrolled in schools need to get vocal about this.

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piscesgrrl said...

I just read this same article and it's been bugging me, too. And then a grrlfriend called today and said the phone lines are a'buzz because a local basketball coach called an 8th grade player a p*ssy and then threw the basketball as hard he could at him and it bounced off the kids face. And I guess it's not the first time he's flipped in anger and he's still there.



Silvia said...

That's really lovely. Teaches the kids what "sportsmanship" really means, eh?