A Lingering Shame

Most of America's educators are dedicated professionals who wouldn’t dream of crossing the line into sexual conduct with a student. But a small slice of school employees do not respect that boundary. Their crimes can leave indelible scars on their victims, severely damage families, and cause lasting harm to entire school communities. How to recognize and combat the threat posed by such educators is an issue that no education policymaker, administrator, teacher, or parent can afford to ignore.

This special collection of stories, "A Lingering Shame: Sexual Abuse of Students by School Employees," assembles reporting on a problem that is only sporadically recognized as a national issue. The collection features a three-day 2007 Associated Press series on teacher sexual misconduct based on a seven-month investigation by AP reporters across the country. Some of the stories in the series appeared in the October 24, 2007, issue of Education Week; the entire series is available here.

The collection also highlights special Education Week coverage, including "A Trust Betrayed," an award-winning series based on a six-month investigation the paper conducted in 1998, as well as an update of the series based on fresh research done five years later.

December 2, 1998 It may start with a warm smile or an affectionate hug. But often, far more often than many people think, those friendly moments mask the first steps by a teacher or coach down the road that leads to sexual relations with their young charges and the shattering of a sacred trust.

April 30, 2003  On any day of the year, it's long been easy to find reports of sexual misconduct by school employees. But now, a new Education Week survey suggests, at least some state policymakers are starting to pay more attention.

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mammoth report into the abuse of thousands of children in Catholic-run schools blamed successive Irish governments for permitting rape and other sadistic practices inside the tax-funded facilities throughout most of the 20th century. The authors of the nine-year investigation offered a long list of recommendations to toughen and modernize the way children — particularly those in state care — are supervised and protected. The proposals included 24-hour emergency social care, surprise inspections of children's homes, and more rigorous enforcement of existing rules. The government of Prime Minister Brian Cowen, which is battling one of Europe's worst recessions and budget deficits, says it will enact the improvements as quickly as possible. Those on the front lines of child protection said they doubted that would happen. "People would be wrong to think that the danger is behind us. Ireland's child protection policies are still a generation behind the standards in the United Kingdom and the United States. Our leaders are far too complacent," said Maeve Lewis, whose Dublin pressure group One in Four publicizes child sexual abuse in Ireland. Lewis noted that a string of child-abuse scandals involving church and lay abusers inspired a string of official inquiries and nearly 200 recommendations since 1993. "Most of those recommendations have never been implemented," she said. "If we do not finally begin to put the needs of children first, all of us will be sitting here in 30 years' time talking about some other scandal that somehow evaded our attention or care." Ireland's minister for children, Barry Andrews, said the government was determined to keep strengthening child protection. He said today's system for placing children into protective care "bears no comparion" to Ireland's church-run industrial schools, which were closed down gradually from the 1960s to the 1990s. In those days, courts that deemed a child a petty criminal, school truant or from a dysfunctional home could order him or her into the church's custody — for an average of nine years. These days Ireland's Health Service Executive, responsible for running hospitals and enforcing public health policy, places more than 90 percent of children deemed at risk with foster families, not institutions. Of approximately 5,300 children in state care, only about 450 are in state residences or emergency shelters. Andrews declined to comment on the Health Service Executive's admission in February that 20 children in state care had died or been killed in the previous six years. The causes ranged from drug overdoses to assaults, but no inquest results have been made public in any case. Child-abuse activists stressed that the greatest weakness in Ireland's system is that it takes far too long to identify children in danger and rescue them. They noted that the government and Health Service Executive fund no child-protection workers for nights and weekends, leaving police to fill in the gap. Two recent cases illustrate the shocking risks that children still face from slow official reaction to even the most obvious warnings. In January, a 40-year-old single mother became the first woman in Irish history to be convicted of incest. The woman — whose identity was concealed to protect her children — was a notorious drunk in her village, and her six children the object of ridicule in school, because of their poor hygiene, lice, cuts and bruises, filthy clothes and other inescapable signs of neglect. Social workers and police spent nearly a decade monitoring the woman's inability to care for her children, which included garbage, clothes and even excrement piling up in the home. But the children weren't placed in foster care until the eldest boy, aged 13, told police she had been forcing him to have sex with her. Earlier this month, Andrews' department published findings into the 2007 case of a couple who, descending into madness, had planned their own suicides and the murder of their two daughters aged 5 and 3. The investigation found that the parents, Adrian and Ciara Dunne, took their children to a mortician and discussed plans for four coffins, a burial plot and the husband's will. Once the Dunnes left, the funeral home warned police. It was a Friday night with no social workers on duty, so police asked a Catholic priest to visit the family. He asked a second priest, who found the Dunne home silent and curtains drawn. Police and Health Services Executive spent the weekend arguing about which organization should take charge. When officers and social workers jointly made it to the Dunne home that Monday afternoon, they found the man hanging from a rope, his wife strangled, and both girls smothered with pillows. " />
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Governors, state education officials, and lawmakers have led the push for new measures in an effort to train an entire state's corps of teachers to recognize potential abusers in their midst.
May 29, 2008 - AP

Restoration of funding will support effort to reduce a backlog of hundreds of cases involving teachers and administrators accused of having sex with students.
April 11, 2008 - AP

Policymakers across the country are responding to national and local media coverage of teacher misconduct.
February 5, 2008 - Education Week

Governors, legislative leaders and top education officials are pledging to close loopholes that have allowed teacher sexual misconduct to persist.
November 5, 2007 - Education Week (Web)

Every school has rules governing teacher behavior. Every state has laws against child abuse, and many specifically outlaw teachers’ taking sexual liberties with students. Yet people like Chad Maughan stay in the classroom.
October 23, 2007 - Education Week (Web)

While most educators are dedicated professionals, investigators and academic experts who have studied teacher sexual misconduct say there are some warning signs that should make parents pay more attention and take action.
October 23, 2007 - Education Week (Web)

Time and again in their seven-month investigation of sexual misconduct by teachers, Associated Press reporters discovered cases in which educators accused of such misconduct continued to teach.
October 23, 2007 - Education Week (Web)

Immediately after news of one teachers arrest hit in January 2005, people began questioning the girls' motives: Why didn't they come forward sooner? Were they really telling the truth?
October 22, 2007 - Education Week (Web)

Girls often are ostracized for bringing down educators, while boys are seen as ‘lucky’.
October 22, 2007 - Education Week

The Associated Press investigates a widespread problem in American schools: sexual misconduct by the very teachers who are supposed to be nurturing the nation’s children.
October 21, 2007 - Education Week

More than 300 California educators had their teaching licenses revoked or suspended because of sex-related offenses from 2001 through 2005. But you can’t tell that from the state’s enforcement records.
October 21, 2007 - Education Week

Associated Press reporters in every state and the District of Columbia worked for months to provide a national look at sexual misconduct among educators.
October 20, 2007 - Education Week

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