U.S. Dept. of Ed drops report on prohibiting "Aiding and Abetting" of sexual misconduct in schools
The report was followed by a webinar called "Lessons from the Field"
The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) released a report this month dealing with prohibiting the “aiding and abetting” of sexual misconduct by adults in the nation’s public schools.
“Aiding and abetting,” according to the USDOE report, is “when staff who have engaged in adult sexual misconduct move to another school.”
How widespread is sexual abuse of students by teachers?
Since 2016, this reporter has logged some 265 arrests of North Carolina educators and staff members. A recent FOX News report said it had found 181 arrests of teachers accused of sex crimes with students just in the first half of 2022.
A report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice and published in 2017 that drew from a former USDOE report found that an estimated 10% of K–12 students will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time they graduate from high school and that a single offender can have up to 73 victims.
More to the Story: The USDOE Report
The USDOE’s “Aiding and Abetting” report looks at how provisions enacted in 2015 during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) are protecting students from sexual abuse in schools. Specifically, a look at the provisions in Section 8546 related to “aiding and abetting,” have been implemented in State Education Agencies (SEAs).
The report follows the actions earlier this year of U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). The lawmakers sent a letter to USDOE Secretary Miguel Cardona asking him to provide answers regarding states’ failure to comply with Section 8546 of ESEA.
Key findings included:
• As of October 2020, all 51 states required criminal background checks, and 35 states had adopted at least one other provision that could help prevent school personnel who are known or believed with probable cause to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a student or minor from obtaining new employment in education.
• Nineteen SEAs reported developing new or revising existing laws and policies in response to Section 8546, and 15 worked with other agencies and organizations to do so. These agencies and organizations include the state board of education and the state legislature.
• Nearly half of SEAs reported providing guidance and support to help districts implement state laws and policies related to aiding and abetting.
Additionally, the report found that a little over half of states (27) have laws and policies requiring prospective employers to check an applicant’s employment history, certification status, employment eligibility, and/or disciplinary status.
Only 19 of those 27 states have laws or policies requiring employers to request information (e.g., personnel files, employment history) from an applicant’s current and former employers. Only 14 require employers to check an applicant’s eligibility for employment or certification in and across states.
The report also says that two-thirds of the SEAs (33) document district complaints and/or incidents of sexual misconduct, eight SEAs didn’t document it and seven SEAs didn’t know whether or not their SEA documented complaints and/or incidents of sexual misconduct.
Under the section titled “Disclosures,” less than half (20) states have enacted laws or policies that require current or former employers to share personnel information with prospective employers.
What’s more disturbing is that only 20 states have enacted laws or policies explicitly prohibiting the suppression of information regarding school employee sexual misconduct.
The lack of disclosure is a huge problem further enabling “aiding and abetting,” which has also been called “passing the trash.”
“Passing the trash” is when a teacher or staff member is allowed to resign their position under dubious circumstances and the employee is either moved to another school in the district, takes a job in a new district, or even goes to work in another state.
In North Carolina there was an attempt to address “pass the trash” behavior in 2017. Legislation was enacted requiring school staff to provide a 30-day notice when resigning. Additionally, if that resignation did not meet the 30-day criteria and was tied to criminal activity or an arrest, the district is required to report that resignation to the N.C. State Board of Education.
Districts allowing these types of resignations are more common than not and have ramifications for the integrity of the employment data states often rely on to check out potential employees such as the National and State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC), a national clearinghouse for educator licensure and discipline.
In other words, NASDTEC is only as good as the information inputted into it. This fact was touched on briefly during the Lessons from the Field webinar.
NASDTEC members include all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, Guam, and the Canadian province of Ontario.
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The report was followed by an informational webinar hosted by USDOE officials and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. The webinar was titled “Lessons from the Field - Protecting Students by Preventing Aiding and Abetting Adult Sexual Misconduct.” The transcript and video are also available for the public to view.
The Lessons from the Field webinar included discussions on legislation in states like Nevada for combatting Adult Sexual Misconduct (ASM), how to better vet employees, and suggested teacher and staff training.
A fact sheet included in the resources provided during the webinar provided some eye-opening statistics. This chart was also included in the main report.
While all 51 states and the District of Columbia do background checks at the time of hire, disclosure and transparency surrounding staff employment records were dismal. According to the USDOE’s report, only 16 states require only a criminal background check.
The fact sheet did not mention if the background checks were repeated after the initial hiring of the employee nor if fingerprinting as part of the process.
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