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A year-long investigation by USA Today revealed “fundamental defects” in how school officials screen teachers.

According to the newspaper’s report, some teachers with a history of serious misconduct are slipping through the cracks. For example, USA Today pointed to a case in which Georgia revoked the teacher’s license of an educator who exchanged nude pictures and inappropriate text messages with a female student. Despite losing his license, he managed to continue teaching by simply moving to another state.

Part of the problem, as USA Today’s reporters discovered, is that 11 states pass the work of conducting comprehensive criminal background checks to local school districts, which often lack the necessary resources.

The newspaper conducted interviews and open-records law reviews nationwide to gather database information. What it discovered is that the “patchwork system of laws and regulations” leaves schoolchildren vulnerable to teachers with a past record of misconduct.

Here’s what USA Today found:

  • States fail to report the names of thousands of disciplined teachers to a privately run database that is the nation’s only centralized system for tracking teacher discipline. Without entries in the database, troubled and dangerous teachers can move to new states — and get back in classrooms — undetected. 
  • The names of at least 9,000 educators disciplined by state officials are missing from a clearinghouse operated by the non-profit National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. At least 1,400 of those teachers’ licenses had been permanently revoked, including at least 200 revocations prompted by allegations of sexual or physical abuse. 
  • State systems to check backgrounds of teachers are rife with inconsistencies, leading to dozens of cases in which state education officials found out about a person’s criminal conviction only after a teacher was hired by a district and already in the classroom.

SOURCE: USA Today | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

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