To the Editor:
Thank you for your coverage of the new federal K-12 law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. Your introduction to the article series, “Inside the Every Student Succeeds Act,” is absolutely correct in stating that “Now comes the really hard part: implementation.” Topics that you covered included “accountability and testing, teacher quality, research, regulation, funding, early-childhood education, and thorny issues involving student groups that often lag behind their peers,” as the introduction states.
As vice president of S.E.S.A.M.E. (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation), a 45-year veteran classroom teacher, a parent, and grandparent, I would encourage all educators to take special note of one “thorny” issue in particular. The issue is found in ESSA’s Section 8038, titled “The prohibition on aiding and abetting sexual abuse in schools.”
Incidents of educator sexual misconduct seemingly are either increasing at an alarming rate or the reporting of such incidents has increased dramatically. In 2014, our research shows, at least 458 school employees were arrested across America for sexual misconduct with students—more than one per day of the year. In 2015, our research shows that number jumped to at least 496 arrests.
One study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that the average pedophile who is a school employee molests 73 children over a lifetime. Regardless, for decades, the practice of allowing offending teachers to simply leave their current districts and find teaching positions in other districts has persisted. This practice must stop.
Section 8038 will help hold those people accountable who continually put children at risk. Teacher sexual misconduct and abuse is indeed a thorny subject that must be addressed in every school district in this nation.
Encouraging districts to pay special attention to Section 8038 of ESSA will go far in protecting our students and stopping educator sexual misconduct. Section 8038’s importance deserves a deep look in Education Week’s “Inside the Every Student Succeeds Act.”
John M. Seryak
A version of this article appeared in the July 20, 2016 edition of Education Week as Educator Sexual Misconduct Targeted by Provision in ESSA