A draft report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education on the prevalence of sexual misconduct in schools recommends steps that can help curb abuse of students by school employees. The report cautions that “there are no studies of the effectiveness of prevention programs or legislation.” Still, it says, “there are practices that many believe are likely to reduce educator sexual misconduct.”
- Craft written policies that unambiguously describe and prohibit inappropriate educator-student relationships.
- Screen new and current employees with background checks that include fingerprinting.
- Centralize record-keeping and designate one case coordinator to whom “all rumors, allegations, or complaints are channeled.”
- Thoroughly and promptly investigate allegations and report them to both child-protection and law-enforcement agencies.
- Make educators, parents, and students aware of the signs of misconduct by educators.
- Educate employees and students about expectations for behavior, the responsibility to report suspected wrongdoing, and the proper channels for doing so.
- Change state certification rules to require that new educators “understand the professional expectations and ethics in regard to student relationships.”
- Set up adequate state and federal registries of educators who have engaged in sexual misconduct with students “where future employers or parents can turn to check backgrounds.”
- Revise state policies and laws to protect students of all ages; to require stringent background checks; to mandate reporting to the state of misconduct accusations; to give immunity to employers from lawsuits over candid job references given in good faith; and standardize age-of-consent laws and definitions of child sexual abuse across states.
SOURCE: Draft of “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature” by Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University