When a teacher is accused of sexual misconduct, it’s one of the most serious accusations that warrants immediate action. Oftentimes the teacher’s union or school district is to blame for failing to fire teachers accused of misconduct and change the culture accordingly. In many cases, educators even work to cover up accusations to protect their reputations.
Covering Up Child Abuse and Keeping Abusers in Schools
In states across the country, teachers, administrators, and other school staff are required to notify authorities of any accusations or suspicions of teacher sexual misconduct involving underage students. Despite this requirement put in place to protect students, some faculty members are instead opting to cover up these instances of abuse to protect co-workers or the reputation of the school or district at large.
The Southern California News Group recently uncovered widespread abuse cover-ups taking place in Southern California, examining around 1,900 pages worth of documents along with hours of interviews with police. The investigation uncovered a pattern of concealing sex abuse cases that had started over a decade earlier.
Many experts assert that the problem persists across the nation beyond California, as other districts have been found to have covered up allegations of sexual misconduct.
When School District Culture Is to Blame
Teacher sexual misconduct occurs when a teacher sexually abuses a child while the child is in the care of that teacher in a K-12 school setting. According to research from Magnolia Consulting, one in every 10 students will suffer sexual misconduct before graduating from high school. Despite the prevalence of abuse, staff who fail to report any suspicions of abuse rarely face criminal charges.
Even when teachers are accused of sexual misconduct, they often don’t lose their jobs due to the protection of some teachers’ unions. In fact, a combination of a union’s advocacy and laws have helped protect many abusers, as those laws often beget additional laws.
In some cases, both districts and unions accuse each other of allowing abusers to remain unpunished. While some school district officials state that they are required to keep accused teachers employed due to certain teachers’ union contract clauses, unions may claim that the school district has the ability to fire educators as needed.
Failure to Act When Needed
Another investigation by Voice of San Diego helped uncover additional problems with school districts in San Diego. The investigation found that public school districts in the San Diego area enable teachers accused of misconduct to stay employed, even after allegations are supported by an investigation. Instead of firing teachers, districts may either choose to transfer accused employees to other schools or give them the ability to voluntarily resign or retire. In turn, the district remains quiet about the reasons for letting the teacher go.
Teachers’ unions across the country have also helped protect teachers in many situations, whether facing a sexual abuse case, a personal injury lawsuit, or another situation. Unions often fight to protect teachers from accountability, with contracts that can make it extremely difficult to fire senior staff.
Ultimately, multiple parties may be to blame when sexual misconduct occurs in schools.