New Focus on Teacher-Sex Cases and School Policies. (Notebook: Education Information from Schools, Business, Research and Professional Organizations)

Article excerpt

The focus this year has been on the Roman Catholic Church as one case after another of pedophilia and church cover-ups came to light. The news begs the question: How do public schools handle sexual offenders?

U.S. public schools are certainly exempt from this problem. An estimated 1 percent to 5 percent of teachers will be sexually inappropriate with students, according to statistics compiled by Charol Shakeshaft a professor of education administration at Hofstra University and researcher Audrey Cohan. Shakeshaft has studied 225 sexual abuse complaints against teachers made to federal authorities between 1990 to 1994 and discovered that school superintendents followed up in only 1 percent of the cases.

It is easy for a problem teacher to move from one district to another, leaving records and questionable behavior behind, notes Julie Underwood, general counsel for the National School Boards Association. "Some states, such as Wisconsin, have a mandatory reporting policy, which means districts have to report cases and allegations to the state department of education," she says. "If there is a conviction, the next step is revoking the teacher's license." But teachers whose licenses aren't revoked can travel to other states with the assurance that past allegations will not go with them. …