Georgia officials revoked a teacher’s license after finding he exchanged sexual texts and naked photos with a female student and was involved in physical altercations with two others.
A central Florida teacher’s credentials were suspended after she was charged with battery for allegedly shoving and yelling at a 6-year-old student.
In Texas, a middle school math teacher lost his job and teaching license after he was caught on camera allegedly trying to meet a teenage boy in a sting set up by NBC’s nationally aired TV program To Catch a Predator.
All three of those teachers found their way back to the front of public school classrooms, simply by crossing state lines. They’re far from alone.
An investigation by the USA TODAY NETWORK found fundamental defects in the teacher screening systems used to ensure the safety of children in the nation's more than 13,000 school districts.
The patchwork system of laws and regulations — combined with inconsistent execution and flawed information sharing between states and school districts — fails to keep teachers with histories of serious misconduct out of classrooms and away from schoolchildren. At least three states already have begun internal investigations and audits based on questions raised during the course of this investigation.
|WATCH VIDEO ABOVE|
Over the course of a year, the USA TODAY NETWORK gathered the databases of certified teachers and disciplined teachers using the open records laws of each of the 50 states. Additionally, journalists used state open records laws to obtain a private nationwide discipline database that many states use to background teachers. The computerized analysis of the combined millions of records from all 50 states revealed:
- States fail to report the names of thousands of disciplined teachers to a privately run database that is the nation’s only centralized system for tracking teacher discipline, many of which were acknowledged by several states’ education officials and the database’s non-profit operator. Without entries in the database, troubled and dangerous teachers can move to new states — and get back in classrooms — undetected.
- The names of at least 9,000 educators disciplined by state officials are missing from a clearinghouse operated by the non-profit National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. At least 1,400 of those teachers’ licenses had been permanently revoked, including at least 200 revocations prompted by allegations of sexual or physical abuse,
- State systems to check backgrounds of teachers are rife with inconsistencies, leading to dozens of cases in which state education officials found out about a person’s criminal conviction only after a teacher was hired by a district and already in the classroom. Eleven states don’t comprehensively check teachers' work and criminal backgrounds before issuing licenses, leaving that work to local districts — where critics say checks can be done poorly or skipped.
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