Teacher Sexual Misconduct Runs Rampant in U.S. Public Schools

Published December 1, 2007

A seven-month investigation by The Associated Press revealed a disturbing amount of sexual misconduct by schoolteachers–usually toward students–in American schools.

The investigators, whose findings were released in late October, said no policy generated so far at any level of government has proven a reasonably foolproof way of keeping molesters out of classrooms.

According to the AP, which examined the disciplinary records of teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia over the past five years, approximately 2,750 teachers nationwide had their credentials revoked, denied, surrendered, or sanctioned between 2001 and 2005 because of sexual misconduct allegations.

Incidents of female teachers having sex with male students have been popular tabloid fodder ever since Mary Kay LeTourneau made headlines in 1997, but according to the AP investigation, 90 percent of abusers are male.

Of those allegations, students were the victims 80 percent of the time. Approximately 50 percent of the teachers punished by their districts were also later convicted in state court for their crimes.

Widespread Problem

Mary Jo McGrath, a California lawyer who’s spent three decades studying the problem, told the AP, “every single school district in the nation has at least one perpetrator. At least one. It doesn’t matter if it’s urban or rural or suburban.”

The problem is ongoing, the report said, because most abuse never gets reported. It is compounded by the fact that many districts deal with the problem internally, allowing abusive teachers to leave quietly–sometimes flouting state laws that require allegations of abuse to be reported to state education departments, because of fears of challenging strong teachers unions.

According to the AP, “The overwhelming majority of cases the AP examined involved teachers in public schools. Private school teachers rarely turn up because many are not required to have a teaching license and, even when they have one, disciplinary actions are typically handled within the school.

“Two of the nation’s major teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, each denounced sex abuse while emphasizing that educators’ rights also must be taken into account,” the AP report noted.

Karla Dial ([email protected]) is managing editor of School Reform News.