Audit Reveals Several Instances Of Teacher Misconduct In Classrooms
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – More than two dozen cases of teacher misconduct in the classroom were outlined in a state audit that showed sexual harassment and physical abuse of students occurred several dozen times over a five-year period without adequate investigation.
Parents want action, and the state school board has already begun working on it.
The audit determined that instances of slapping a student, sexually harassing a student, and fighting with a student were among just a few of the teacher transgressions that have gone unreported by Utah schools.
The audit released Wednesday showed dozens of Utah teachers have crossed the line ethically and physically with their students, without proper discipline, or review of their teaching license. That’s because those cases weren’t properly reported by their schools or school districts.
“We are surprised that these things are going on and not being reported adequately,” said LeAnn Wood, education commissioner for the Utah PTA.
The mother of five talked about what she would do if any of her kids were mistreated the same way at school.
“I would absolutely be going to the principal, and then, if getting no response there, talk to the superintendent – and maybe even talk to the school board, saying something needs to be done here,” she said.
By law, schools and school districts must report teacher misconduct to the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission. Over the five-year period audited, 17 such cases were reported, 28 cases that should have been reported were not.
State auditor John Dougall said several of the cases discovered in the audit were shocking.
“A teacher would give extra credit to a student to dress provocatively, or to make sexually explicit comments in class,” he said.
Another teacher threw a wrench at a student, hitting the student. Other teachers slapped students, fought with students, sexually harassed students and came to school under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Cases like that that clearly should have been reported to the state Board of Education,” Dougall said.
Failure to report may have allowed further misconduct in subsequent teaching jobs, and prevented the state from suspending or revoking a teacher license.
The audit also found the State Board of Education has improved licensing discipline in recent years, but it’s up to the state board to reach out to the school districts to make sure the reporting improves.
The State Superintendent of Schools, Sydnee Dickson, said she and the board were taking the audit findings very seriously, and student safety was their top priority.
The board had already formed a task force to address this problem before the release of the audit, Dickson said, and all of those cases would have been investigated had they been reported.
“Clearly, the State Board of Education wants to improve compliance,” said Dougall.
The state school superintendent said the cases outlined in the audit were all being investigated. An independent, outside review was also being conducted to give the board additional insight for any necessary reform.