Law & Courts

Vt. Web Site Names Disciplined Educators

By Julie Blair — November 19, 2003 3 min read
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Vermont educators who have had their licenses revoked or suspended for any reason are now listed on a public Web site, believed to be one of the first of its kind in the nation, that aims to make such information more easily available to families and hiring school districts.

The names of offending teachers or other licensed educators, their schools, the status of their licenses, and the circumstances in question are all listed on the site, which is run by the state’s department of education and provides records as far back as 2000.

Such information has long been on the public record, although it was more difficult to find, said William J. Reedy, the chief legal counsel for the education department.

“We gave the information to those who requested it,” he said. “We simply had no public display of it.”

Many applaud the efforts of the Green Mountain State, which launched the site this month.

“I think it’s a wonderful move,” said Michael R. DeWeese, the chief executive officer of the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, a 3,500-student district in the suburbs of Burlington.

Not only is the effort a helpful tool for human resources employees throughout the state, he said, but it also serves as a disincentive for pedophiles or drug dealers, for example, who might otherwise apply to other school districts once they’ve been fired for their offenses.

The state board of education ushered in the new policy in the wake of a scandal last summer in which a Vermont educator allegedly had consensual sex with a colleague in his classroom—then secured an elected, leadership position with the Washington-based National Education Association. (“In Wake of Scandal, NEA Board Member Resigns,” Aug. 6, 2003.) Wayne Nadeau later resigned from his position on the NEA’s executive committee.

“He had been suspended for 20 work days and apparently no one at his school knew about it,” Mr. Reedy said. “That caused all kind of discussions to happen on a national level and here in Vermont.”

Public Access

Previously, parties interested in the status of a teacher’s license had to ask the education department for the information, he said. Now, it is relatively easy to find. The database can be searched alphabetically.

The Web site currently contains the names of 26 educators, their communities of residence, the schools where they taught, the grounds for disciplinary action, the dates actions were taken, and whether the teacher was reinstated.

That is particularly important information for independent schools and day-care centers, he said, because often they don’t require licenses when hiring. That way, they can look up a candidate to see whether the person is in good standing with the state.

“I can’t remember when this wasn’t done for other professions,” said Laurie B. Huse, a spokeswoman for the Vermont-NEA, which backs the Web site. “Our only concern is that it be done fair and accurately.”

The site can be found by going to “educator licensing” from the department’s home page at www.state.vt.us/educ.

Victims’ rights advocacy groups cheered the effort, but added that it would be even more helpful to track the educators listed on the Web site from school to school and from state to state.

“If the trash has been passed, there is no way of knowing,” said Terri L. Miller, the president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation, which is based in Las Vegas.

The Mashpee, Mass.-based National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification collects the names of teachers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked, but the data is not available to the general public, said Bart Zabin, who oversees the Web site for the membership group. All 50 states, however, are members of NASDTEC and are permitted to use the database.

Some teachers emphasized the importance of accuracy.

“Sometimes, when someone is accused, the charges are dropped,” said Michael Dwyer, who teaches high school social studies and English at Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon, Vt., and was the state’s 2003-04 educator of the year.

He also worries that such a site will scare members of the public and taint their views of teachers. In reality, only a handful of the state’s 10,000 educators have had licenses revoked or suspended over the past three years.

“It is,” Mr. Reedy added, “very rare.”

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