Sex abuse by teachers is plaguing U.S. schools

NATION: Keeping molesters away from kids has proven tricky

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  • Charles Nickalopoulos
    Oct. 11, 2008 11:35 p.m.

    I have known for years just how bad the public school system is, but I am lost as what to do about it. It is the denial I think that keeps the situation from improving.

  • Rich
    Oct. 22, 2007 8:53 a.m.

    The thing that bugs me is how so many of the female abusers get off with probation while the male abusers go to jail. I'm talking about convicted abusers here, not just accused abusers. This AP article throws them all in the same barrel. The apples-to-oranges comparisons about the rate of abuse also are confusing to readers. In Utah, in a five-year period there were 57 teachers who lost their licenses for sexually related violations. We have about 24,000 teachers. What's the average tenure? If teachers kept their jobs for an average of 5 years, then the percentage of teachers who lost their licenses for sexual reasons would be about one-fifth of a percent. That percentage would rise if average tenure were longer. Of course, there could be 10 violations for every teacher who is caught, so that would be a big problem -- maybe even a plague as the Deseret News describes it. The district employee who said that 100% of teachers are terminated if any evidence is found is wrong. The evidence has to be compelling or the district fears a suit for wrongful termination. The districts prohibit teachers from being alone with individual students, period.

  • On the hunt
    Oct. 21, 2007 10:05 p.m.

    I work with a Utah school district and can tell you that the districts are very concerned about the safety of the kids. I think the reason that Utahs rates are so high is because the districts are so agressive in tracking it.

    I would say that the district I work in has a 100% termination rate IF any evidance is found. And we work with legal authorities and openly assist with removal of teaching credentials and criminal charges.

  • To anon
    Oct. 21, 2007 3:12 p.m.

    The schools haven't been getting worse for the last 10-20 years, society has. The schools only mirror what is going on all around us.

    No abuse is acceptable. To make it seem like all teachers are abusers is not acceptable either. A lack of respect for the profession will only bring worse and worse people into the profession.

    99.999% of the teachers my kids deal with have earned that respect.

  • Retired Teacher
    Oct. 21, 2007 2:13 p.m.

    Is it a coincidence that this article appears in the media the same week as a decision to provide birth control for sexually active middle school students? After 35 years of teaching, I can tell you that 99.99% of teachers are dedicated, morally strong professionsals. I can also tell you that many young teens are engaging in some form of sexual activity, thinking this particular activity is not wrong.
    Those teachers who take advantage of students should be punished to the full extent of the law and ostracized from the profession. Minor children must be protected and allowed to tell their story to the courts in a manner which guarantees anonymnity.
    The youth of this nation need every adult to take a stand against sexual activity with a minor child. Congress has the power to enact legislation which provides serious consequences for anyone who initiates sexual activity with a minor child, including other minor children. "Just say 'No'" doesn't work. We need to shout "NEVER!"

    P.S. Students who threaten teachers with a false accusation of sexual abuse must be dealt with harshly.

  • What?
    Oct. 21, 2007 1:21 p.m.

    You Got It Backward. Yes respect must be earned, and 99.9% of the teachers work towards that. The very few who do this dastardly, cowardly, despicable, unhuman behavior give the others a black eye. Of course writing about the 99.9% who are not engaged in this abominable behavior would bring headlines. Only the negative brings headlines. After having spent 33 years in middle school and high school,(teacher, counselor, dean of students, assistant principal and principal) having dealt with thousands of teachers I am only aware of 2 teachers who became involved sexually with their students. One is in prison and the other lost his teaching credentials because the girl was 18 at the time and insisted she persued him.

    Both were excellent teachers but lost their vision of what it is like to be a great teacher. Both violated the trust of parents.

    I am always saddened when a teacher forgets what is expected of them and the higher standard they should hold themselves to. Truly a sad thing in the lives of both perpetrator and especially the vicitm.

    Many have lost their moral compass.

  • Kantiandude
    Oct. 21, 2007 11:49 a.m.

    Wow! What a ridiculous title for an article. The percentage of abuse is extremely low, not that any number is acceptable. In addition, this is a state where the mere accusation of impropriety has destroyed the lives of innocent teachers. Some twenty years ago, a North Salt Lake teacher was falsely accused of improper relations with a student (She later admitted she was mad about a bad grade) and the teacher involved lost his job in a witch-hunt. Surely, in a culture where a mere accusation, regardless of truth or motive, creates a situation where poorly paid teachers get the shaft.

  • anonymous
    Oct. 21, 2007 10:57 a.m.

    After forty years in education I can say that very few educators take advantage of the children. However, some do - it is more than a national problem.

    Just from newspaper articles I can see several educators who have been fired and gone through the court system. One was picked up in a "sting" for soliciting sex from a minor in another city. Another was charged with soliciting sex from a student in a junior high (he was a coach). Another was a music teacher involved in sex. There was job action, but no legal action - he lost his teaching license but was not prosecuted. Another was a Huntsman Award winner and an elementary teacher. Still another was a female teacher who was involved with her student(s) through teen parties.

    There were others I am aware of who were involved with students but weren't charged because either the student or the parent did not want to be involved. In those cases there was usually a forced resignation.

    Sex abuse by teachers is a real problem for us now. All need to break the code of silece that allows for this to happen.

  • Clare
    Oct. 21, 2007 10:22 a.m.

    Not to be rude, but polygraph tests are not foolproof. How come we don't hear reports about other professions in which abuse is taking place? It is usually someone in the family that commits these crimes. Our classrooms at school have a lot of windows, so it would be much more difficult to commit such things.

  • Anonymous
    Oct. 21, 2007 10:01 a.m.

    To Anon --

    Our schools have been getting consistently worse and worse over the past 10-20 years, in a number of ways. If educators would get off their high moral horse, maybe something could be done about it.

    Teaching is a noble profession. But too many so-called teachers and educators think they're above the parents and population. Teacher's unions going on strike, "tenure" and "academic freedem" for poor teachers, teachers who sit around and do nothing after their initial lesson plans are created, but still get a big fat pension, and now teachers who sexually abuse -- our public schools are rife with problems.

    In my opinion, it's time that we revolutionize our public school system with the students in mind. Let's revoluionize the process by which teachers get hired too.

  • You've got it backward
    Oct. 21, 2007 9:18 a.m.

    Respect must be EARNED. This isn't "one more reason to disrespect the profession," it is one FEWER reason to RESPECT it.

    And far from the only reason.

  • A Math Teacher
    Oct. 21, 2007 8:58 a.m.

    Replacing parents with state authorities opens up your family for a world of abuse, and not just this kind.

  • Agit8r
    Oct. 21, 2007 8:26 a.m.

    It is time to make prospective teachers take polygraph tests concerning sexual behavior as a condition of employment. I can hear the NEA and UEA squealing about it already, but, lets face reality; If we are serious about fixing the problem, we need serious measures. It is required of law enforcement officers and others in a position of trust in the State and Federal government to take polygraph tests. Accepting anything less is condoning the problem. Are our kids not worth this?

  • Anonymous
    Oct. 21, 2007 4:01 a.m.

    Another "jon stossel" like article trying to make all teachers look bad.

    Yes it should never happen.

    Yes it does happen.

    But not all teachers are out to abuse students.

    One more way to disrespect the profession as a whole.

  • Come back to reality.
    Oct. 21, 2007 3:55 a.m.

    Even one adult doing this is too many but this article is all about creating drama. "PLAGUING" u.s. schools? that would mean it is happening everywhwere and you can't escape it. It is not.

    500 a year out of the 3,000,000 teachers is not a huge number. What does that work out to? Less than .01% ? In fact there is a much better chance that a family member will commit some kind of abuse long before a teacher ever would.

    The problem is that teachers are in a position of authority and there is absolutely no place for it happening. But it isn't PLAGUING our schools and not every teacher is a molester waiting to happen.

    I really hate when articles are written like this.