Overview: How Project Unfolded
Associated Press reporters in every state and the District of Columbia worked for months to provide a national look at sexual misconduct among educators.
The effort began in March, when AP reporters asked state education officials for records of disciplinary actions taken against teacher licenses from 2001 through 2005.
To obtain the records, most of the reporters had to file formal requests, some repeatedly.
Cooperation from state agencies varied widely. In the end, though, all but one provided most of the requested information.
Maine has a law that keeps offending teachers’ names secret, making it the only state that refused to disclose cases of sexual misconduct to the AP. The three cases the AP found in Maine were made public in widely circulated news reports.
Once AP reporters collected all the disciplinary records, they began to get as much detail as possible on cases of alleged sexual misconduct.
Their secondary sources included court, police, and prison records and state sex-offender registries, as well as various news accounts on the cases, including the AP’s.
The reporters were then asked to input their findings into a database.
If the state took an action against an educator following an accusation of sexual misconduct, then that person was included in the AP’s count.
All the educators were disciplined for doing something sexual, inappropriate, and unprofessional. Many were charged criminally, and 1,390 cases resulted in a conviction.
A very small minority of cases, including a couple of dozen involving prostitution, had no direct connection to either schools or to children.
But they did involve sexual misbehavior, and since education officials punished the teachers for those actions, they made it into the AP count.
In some cases, the allegations didn’t result in criminal prosecution.
Read more about this series, "A Lingering Shame: Sexual Abuse of Students by School Employees." The collection includes a new Associated Press series on the issue, as well as special Education Week coverage.
But the states, typically through their education departments, took action, most often in the form of revocation, suspension, or denial of a state teaching license.
Sometimes states accepted the surrender of a teacher’s license after an accusation surfaced, or as part of a plea deal.
Once reporters entered the teachers in the database, reporters and their editors in each state double-checked the information.
Finally, a team of editors went through the database case by case, eliminating several dozen cases in which it was possible to view the alleged misbehavior as nonsexual.
Vol. 27, Issue 09, Page 16Published in Print: October 24, 2007, as Overview: How Project Unfolded