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Issues With Disciplinary Tracking Systems Found; Offenders Cross State Lines to Get Back in Schools

Investigation Exposes Issues with Disciplinary Tracking Systems for Teachers; Offenders Cross State Lines to Get Back in Schools

A surprising investigation has found separate instances across several states of teachers who had their licenses revoked for misconduct in one state only to get a job in a school in another.

"An investigation by the USA TODAY NETWORK found fundamental defects in the teacher screening systems used to ensure the safety of children in the nation's more than 13,000 school districts,” said USA Today.

USA Today's journalists spent over a year of research using state records to determine serious holes in the way states report teacher infractions.

The journalists looked at records for all 50 states and found an issue with states failing to report "the names of thousands of disciplined teachers to a privately run database that is the nation’s only centralized system for tracking teacher discipline, many of which were acknowledged by several states’ education officials and the database’s non-profit operator. “

And even when they are reported, they weren’t guaranteed to be found in the clearinghouse operated by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, which USA Today says missing the names of 9,000 disciplined educators disciplined by state officials.

Add in the fact that state background checks of teachers were found to be inconsistent, and the investigation speculates that many teachers who have been disciplined and even have had their licenses revoked have found new jobs in schools despite it.

Indeed, it found several definite cases of disciplined teachers crossing state lines to find new work.

Specifically, USA Today discussed the case of Alexander M. Stormer, a teacher who was disciplined by Atlanta Public Schools for having inappropriate interactions with students- some of which were sexual in nature. 

He went on to try to find work in schools in both North and South Carolina- and while South Carolina’s background check found Stormer’s past problems, North Carolina’s did not. Stormer was able to be licensed in North Carolina and work in a school there until last month, when he was terminated only after USA Today reporters began asking questions.

The school district Stormer worked for simply said "officials there would like a tool to more easily identify educators who have had problems elsewhere,” acknowledging the grave error that was allowed to happen.

USA Today used its research to assign letter grades to states depending on how efficient their method of performing background checks for teachers is. 12 states received failing grades.

While it is alarming to hear about disciplined teacher being able to circumvent background checks to find new work in schools, the investigation notes that less than one percent of America’s 3 million teachers have never faced a disciplinary action.

But since USA Today released the findings of its investigation, the backlash has been great, and there’s no doubt that serious reform needs to happen going forward.

Read the full investigation here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

2/15/2016

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