SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — School authorities in Utah have failed to report educator misconduct, possibly allowing teachers to offend again by moving to other schools, according to a new audit.
The report examining a small sample of cases found dozens of allegations over the last 10 years that weren't reported to a Utah State Board of Education oversight panel. Teachers were accused of: sexually harassing a student by touching the neckline of her shirt, viewing pornography on district computers, offering extra credit to female students if they dress a certain way and disciplining a student by throwing a wrench.
"Because these cases were not reported, the USBE's ability to manage and control educator licensure is diminished, and some educators have likely avoided USBE-imposed discipline," auditors wrote.
In at least one case, an educator was terminated from one school for misconduct that was never reported to the commission, allowing the educator to get another job and offend again, according to the report from the Office of the State Auditor.
Even in cases where the panel received reports, school officials told auditors it is hard for them to get information about previous teacher discipline as they choose who to hire.
The report recommends steps including more oversight, punishment for schools that don't report misconduct and the establishment a teacher-discipline database.
In response, Utah State Board of Education officials said are assigning a team to review teacher-discipline practices in response to the findings. "The USBE is committed to make sure our state has safe classrooms," vice-chair Alisa Ellis said in a letter.
Auditors did say the board has improved in recent years with new guidelines for serious punishment for educators who break the rules.