Student Well-Being

Calif. Rules Mask Details of Sex-Related Misconduct

By Juliet Williams — October 21, 2007 3 min read

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—at least not those available to the public.

While some of the most egregious sex abuse is flagged, state law allows many offenses to remain confidential in education records, even when teachers go to prison and register as sex offenders.

A Lingering Shame
Overview:
How Project Unfolded
Part I:
Sex Abuse a Shadow Over U.S. Schools
Calif. Rules Mask Details of Sex-Related Misconduct
Part II:
Band Teacher’s Abuse Scars Family, Splits Community
Gender Affects Response to Teacher-Student Sex
Part III:
Efforts to Curb Educator Sex Abuse Seen as Weak
Signs of Improper Sexual Interest From Educators
Schoolhouse Sex-Abuse Suspects Face Serial Accusations

The lack of information reflects a system for disciplining teachers that, across the country, is often shrouded in secrecy. That makes it difficult for states to share valuable information about errant teachers, and allows some to find other jobs in the classroom.

In California alone, the Associated Press reviewed more than 2,000 cases in which teachers there were punished for misconduct. Among them were hundreds of cases classified as “general misconduct.”

The case of Tanda Rucker, a former college basketball star who taught and coached girls basketball at Encinal High School near Oakland, was one of those. After several teenagers each reported having a sexual relationship with Ms. Rucker, she pleaded no contest to 18 felony counts. She was sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to register as a sex offender.

Yet an official bulletin from California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing reported only that Ms. Rucker’s teaching credential was revoked for misconduct under broad sections of state law that cover everything from theft to murder.

Dangerous Loophole

The AP’s review found dozens of similar cases, often involving pleas of no contest, a common legal agreement that allows a person to avoid a trial or civil liability, but still leads to conviction. California law also bars the credentialing commission from revealing the reason teachers who plead no contest lose their licenses.

It’s a dangerous loophole, says state Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, a Republican from Orange County.

“There is the possibility that one of these people could move to another jurisdiction, most likely another state, and you wouldn’t be able to find out their history,” says Mr. Spitzer, a former prosecutor and high school English teacher.

Here’s how it can happen: California submits information on teachers who lose their licenses to a national database. But because of California’s law, the state provides only limited details.

So officials in another state may find out that someone they want to hire had a problem in California, but it’s nearly impossible for them to learn more from education records.

Records Often Sealed

In some cases, school officials have only a one-year window to access California disciplinary records.

That came into play in 2002, after California granted a probationary license to Craig Kinder. He’d been forced out of a suburban St. Louis district amid accusations that he’d touched students inappropriately.

Mr. Kinder was acquitted on criminal charges, but California officials gave him a license only on the condition that he tell prospective employers about his past.

He didn’t do that when he applied at California’s Newport-Mesa Unified School District. And by the time district officials figured out he’d lied, the state—and the very California agency that required Mr. Kinder to disclose his history—had sealed his disciplinary records.

That made it tough to fire Mr. Kinder, says Lorri McCune, then the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources. “This to me was a gross miscarriage of their responsibility,” Ms. McCune says. “We had basically no recourse, which really made me sick.”

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.

Mr. Kinder eventually voluntarily surrendered his California license in 2003, after the Newport-Mesa district spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to force him out.

His attorney did not respond to messages left by the Associated Press.

Mary Armstrong, the state credentialing commission’s legal counsel, couldn’t discuss the Kinder case, but says her agency seals some disciplinary records because state law requires it.

“It’s a balance between the rights of a teacher who may be falsely accused,” she says, “and the rights of the public.”

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 2007 edition of Education Week as Calif. Teacher-Records Laws Help Hide Details in Cases of Sex-Related Misconduct

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Citing Pandemic, USDA Waives School Meal Regulations Through June 2022
The USDA has extended regulatory waivers that will allow schools to more easily serve free meals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2 min read
Jefferson County Elementary School children sit at desks and eat their school-supplied breakfasts in Fayette, Miss., on March 3, 2021. As one of the most food insecure counties in the United States, many families and their children have come to depend on these meals as their only means of daily sustenance.
Jefferson County Elementary School children sit at desks and eat their school-supplied breakfasts in Fayette, Miss., on March 3, 2021. As one of the most food insecure counties in the United States, many families and their children have come to depend on these meals as their only means of daily sustenance.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Student Well-Being Kids and COVID-19 Vaccines: The Latest News
Follow along here for important updates on the development and rollout of coronavirus vaccines for kids.
3 min read
Student Well-Being 'Growth Mindset' Linked to Higher Test Scores, Student Well-Being in Global Study
The first global study of "growth mindset" found both academic benefits and better well-being among students who think intelligence is not fixed.
4 min read
Conceptual image of growth mindset.
solar22/iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion Why Venting When You Have Problems Feels Good—and Why It Doesn’t Work
When you keep talking about what’s bothering you, it keeps the negative emotions alive. Here’s what research says to do instead.
Ethan Kross
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty