ABC News “Nightline” devoted its entire half hour the other night to a report it called “Passing the Trash,” which anchorman Dan Harris described as “the problem of school administrators unloading problematic teachers onto other schools by hiding allegations of sexual misconduct. Sometimes even providing recommendations, and then looking the other way.”
It’s not a new story. Education Week reported on the issue extensively in an award-winning series, “A Trust Betrayed,” in 1998 and 2003. But that’s not meant as a criticism of “Nightline.” Sadly, the problem persists, with a small minority of teachers and other school employees victimizing students, being allowed to move along, and then harming more students.
“Nightline” correspondent Amy Robach interviews two alleged victims in New Mexico of a 4th grade teacher, 10 years after the girls encountered the teacher, who was allegedly allowed to move on to several other districts. (The teacher, who is identified in the report, was never charged in the case, though New Mexico’s attorney general appears to say that the state may be reviving the case. The teacher declined “Nightline”'s interview requests, but his lawyer appears on camera to deny the allegations.)
“It’s the easy way out,” attorney David Ring, who is described as litigating cases for some 20 years on behalf of victims, tells Robach. “It’s the quickest, most efficient solution to get rid of a dangerous teacher.”
Robach laudably mentions a recent, yearlong investigation of “passing the trash” by USA Today reporter Steve Reilly. (His series was a finalist for a Pulitizer Prize, as announced this week.) Reilly tells Robach that it is extremely rare for administrators who pass along sexual predators to be prosecuted.
In case you had not been paying attention, “Nightline” long ago moved to a start time of roughly 12:37 a.m. Eastern time, where it competes with comedy shows such as “Late Night With Seth Meyers” on NBC and “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on CBS, not to mention with viewers’ sleep habits.
While it is long past its Ted Koppel glory years, the once-formidable news show still does some good work, including the “Passing the Trash” segments.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.