Teachers go unpunished for sexual misconduct
STORY SUMMARY »
Sexual misconduct by the very teachers who are supposed to be nurturing the nation's children is widespread in American schools. Students are groped. They're raped. They're pursued and seduced and think they're in love.
A seven-month Associated Press investigation found cases in every state in which educators were punished for sexual misconduct, in an unprecedented look at the national scope of the problem. The cases represent the worst of a system in which most educator abuse never gets reported, and reported cases often end with no action.
No one -- not the schools, not the courts, not state or federal governments -- has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.
In Hawaii, the AP found that no teachers have had their licenses revoked for disciplinary reasons since 2001 despite convictions for child molestation and drug abuse.
FULL STORY »
No teachers in Hawaii have lost their licenses for disciplinary reasons since 2001 -- not even those who were imprisoned for criminal offenses like child molestation and drug abuse.
Although misbehaving teachers can get fired, Hawaii authorities haven't revoked their licenses, meaning there's little to stop these teachers from getting jobs elsewhere.
"You could lose your job in Hawaii, but you could always go to another state and get another job," said Sharon Mahoe, executive director for the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, which oversees the state's 12,000 active licensed teachers.
Educators struggled to explain why teachers rarely lose their licenses in Hawaii, despite several well-publicized cases.
No other state had so few teachers lose their licenses from 2001 to 2005, the period examined in an Associated Press investigation of teacher discipline.
The standards board doesn't have any pending revocations, nor have any complaints been filed since it took over licensing from the state Education Department in 2002, Mahoe said. Unlike boards in other states, she said, the Hawaii group doesn't have a staff of attorneys or investigators to assist with disciplinary investigations and relies on the state attorney general for legal advice.
In all, seven teachers have lost their licenses since 2001, all for failure to pay licensing fees normally deducted from paychecks because they were no longer employed by the Department of Education. One of those seven lost his license in 2003; the other six came in 2006.
Hawaii's figures were gathered as part of a seven-month investigation in which AP reporters sought records on teacher discipline in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Licenses are often required when teachers transfer from one state to another. If a teacher's license hasn't been revoked, there's little stopping him from moving to a new state and starting over.
"If the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board does not revoke a license for a criminal conviction or termination for cause by the Department of Education, then the teacher could present a valid Hawaii license to another state," said Bruce Shimomoto, personnel director for the department.
At least two former teachers imprisoned for molesting school-age girls are not licensed in Hawaii, but it doesn't appear their licenses were revoked for disciplinary reasons. Their names weren't among those provided by the standards board and the Education Department of teachers who have lost their licenses.
Not on the list:
» Brian Ibaan was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1999 for fondling 13 girls ages 9 and 10 at several Oahu schools. He was a part-time teacher who worked on a contract basis for five years. He is still incarcerated.
» Former third-grade teacher Kevin Kurasaki pleaded guilty to 11 counts of third-degree sexual assault for molesting an 11-year-old female student. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in 2000 and has been released.
"To revoke a license seems to be a final step that maybe isn't necessary in most cases, but it shouldn't be implied that there's no monitoring of teachers and disciplinary action," said Education Department spokesman Greg Knudsen.
Teachers who are incarcerated or otherwise can't report to work lose their jobs, Knudsen said.
For Hawaii teachers to have their license taken away, their cases must first run their course through the judicial system, and then the education officials could ask that the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board take action, Mahoe said. So far, the Education Department has never made such a request.
"I would think that's a good thing," Mahoe said. "It's not like we've been hearing about hundreds of cases, so the list couldn't be very long."
On the Net:
Hawaii Teacher Standards Board: www.htsb.org