Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Misbehaving teachers move from district to district and state to state with relatively little scrutiny

Teachers who have committed sexual misconduct are able to move from district to district and state to state without close checking by school administrators and state governments, and the issue appears to have been widely ignored.

In Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader "found that over a five-year period, the top reason the majority of teachers voluntarily gave up their licenses or had them revoked or suspended was due to sexual misconduct," report the paper's Beth Musgrave and Valarie Honeycutt Spears. Despite some teachers eventually leaving the profession, many are allowed to move to multiple teaching posts without consequences for prior abuse even when the abuse resulted in suspensions.

Take the case of Kentucky teacher Jason Earlywine who was "a physical education and health teacher, was disciplined for sending a student more than 1,700 voice or text messages in 2011 and 2012 and for other inappropriate conduct while a teacher at Paris Independent School District," Musgrave and Spears write. "He eventually left the district and got a job at West Jessamine High School in 2019. Students said in the first several months on the job that Earlywine made inappropriate comments to female students. . . . according to Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board documents."

Kentucky does not have enough prevention policies or training that would help keep possible abusers out of the school system and prevent those that do gain access from traveling from school to school. "Kentucky teachers receive training on sexual harassment but has no requirement that they undergo training on sexual abuse or appropriate boundaries between teachers and students," Musgrave and Spears report. "33 states and the District of Columbia mandate that training."

Kentucky is not alone. Many states that struggle to prevent the hiring or discipline of teachers who act inappropriately with students. In Cabell County, W.Va., a gym teacher faced charges for sexually abusing multiple students. "The alleged incidents happened from August 2019 through January of 2022, according to the criminal complaint," says Eric Fossell for WSAZ-TV. "It also states that an administrator with Cabell County Schools told investigators that Miles had been reprimanded before for similar allegations. That administrator asked Miles in a letter to refrain from 'jovial touching of students' or the matter would be referred to the superintendent."

A Montana school district was sued in 2020, "over its hiring of a teacher and coach who was accused of sending sexual messages to the student," reports The Associated Press. The suit said the teacher "had a pattern of inappropriate behavior toward underaged girls and that the school district was negligent in hiring him. . . . Botsford had been fired from a different high school in 1999 after two girls reported him for inappropriate contact. . . . Centerville Supt. Jan Cahill investigated the reports and found Botsford had 'unethical and immoral relationships' with at least three students, the lawsuit said."

While laws can be passed, it's up to school boards and administrators to set policies and stop abuse. For instance, the Montana legislature passed the "Creating a student safety accountability act" in May of 2019, but it did it keep the teacher from continuing his pattern of abuse.

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