Feds call on states to stop shielding teachers accused of sexual misconduct with students | Education News

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States must enact stronger laws, regulations, and policies to ensure that schools do not assist teachers and other school personnel known or suspected of engaging in sexual misconduct with a student to obtain employment in other schools, concludes a new report from the Department for Education.

The process, known as ‘aiding and abetting’ or ‘passing the trash’, has gained increasing attention in recent years following a handful of high-profile cases.

“While nearly all educators act with extraordinary care and professionalism, many state-level policies and practices can and should be strengthened to ensure better protection for our young people,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Ruth Ryder in a statement. “The gaps in many of these policies and the variability of policies between states remain significant challenges.”

The Department of Education is under increasing pressure to release the report, which was launched under the Trump administration, by congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who see it as a growing problem.

There is no national database for this type of incident. According to estimates by some advocacy groups, 95% of cases of sexual misconduct by educators are handled internally and are not reported to law enforcement or reported by the media. A recent analysis of all Fox News local stories revealed that at least 135 teachers and teacher aides were arrested for child sex crimes in 41 states between Jan. 1 and May 13.

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The federal K-12 law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, includes language aimed at protecting students from sexual abuse and misconduct. Specifically, the provision requires states to enact laws and policies that prohibit school employers from assisting or “aiding and abetting” employees or contractors to obtain new employment if they are “known or suspected, with probable cause, of having committed sexual misconduct with a student or minor.

The law aims, for example, to prevent school personnel from providing letters of recommendation. But the provision does not define “assisting” or “abetting,” and it prohibits the Department of Education from prescribing the manner and form such laws, regulations, or policies take.

These shortcomings, the report concludes, have led to a patchwork of laws, policies and regulations enacted by states.

As it stands, all 50 states and the District of Columbia require criminal background checks, and 35 states have enacted at least one other provision aimed at preventing school personnel who are known or accused with probable cause of committing sexual misconduct with a student or minor to obtain new employment in other educational settings.

The strongest protections, the report points out, occur when states enact laws, regulations and policies that address not only potential employers and job applicants, but also current and former employers and bans to remove information about employee misconduct. Yet only nine states have done so. Twenty-six other states have adopted provisions from one or more of these categories, but not all. And 16 states require criminal background checks without any other employment provisions in state laws or policies.

Perhaps most notably, 33 states have no laws or policies requiring applicants to disclose information about their work history, such as whether they have been investigated, disciplinary action, have been fired or had their license revoked for any reason.

Going forward, Department of Education officials said they plan to monitor each state’s laws, regulations, and/or policies to determine compliance with the specific language of federal K-12. If instances of non-compliance are identified, they said, officials will work with states through trainings, provide technical assistance, intensive support or, if necessary, take enforcement action.

To help states and school districts better understand the options available to them to guard against such occurrences, the Department of Education, as part of its efforts to end this practice, is compiling all the different ways in which States have already designed, implemented and evaluated their laws, regulations, policies and practices in this area.

The department also plans to host a webinar in July for state and local education officials to highlight what they see as the crucial practice of employer disclosure and information sharing. between districts and other educational entities.

The report, released on Friday, includes a 54-page training guide for state and district education officials on how to handle what’s been called “adult sexual misconduct” – a term that encompasses a wide range of behaviors that occur in school settings, ranging from those that are inappropriate to those that are illegal. For example, inappropriate verbal conduct includes sexual comments or questions, jokes, taunting, and teasing, while inappropriate physical conduct includes kissing, hair-stroking, tickling, and frontal hugging. It can also take the form of predatory behavior online.

Illegal conduct is characterized by physical sexual contact between an adult and a child under the age of 18 and includes sexual contact, genital contact, fondling, fondling, fondling, kissing and sexual hugging.

According to a 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office, nearly one in 10 students experience adult sexual misconduct by school staff during their college career. The report also found that most states do not require school personnel to receive awareness and prevention training on child sexual abuse or adult sexual misconduct, although many states want guidance. additional resources and technical assistance from the federal government to do so.

During a seven-month Associated Press investigation, in which reporters reviewed disciplinary records for the 2001-2005 school years in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, reporters found that the titles 2,570 educators had been revoked, denied, dropped or disciplined as a result of adult sexual misconduct and that more than 80% of the victims in the 1,801 cases were students.

Girls make up the overwhelming majority of victims when it comes to what is called “adult sexual misconduct,” as research has long shown. Black children are almost twice as likely as children to be targeted, and Hispanic children face a slightly higher risk than non-Hispanic white children. Most cases of sexual misconduct have been perpetrated by teachers, coaches, bus drivers and substitute teachers.

Meanwhile, children with disabilities are almost three times more likely than those without to be targeted, and those with intellectual and mental disabilities are even more at risk due to the difficulties they have in reporting. abuse to an adult.

Additionally, a recent survey of middle school and high school students aged 13 and older conducted by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network found that LGBTQ children are sometimes hesitant to report adult sexual misconduct, believing that the incidence of homophobia among school personnel will prove to be an insurmountable barrier to seeking help. According to the survey, 57% of responding LGBTQ students had experienced homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff.

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