Strip licenses from teachers caught molesting kids
Hawaii has not revoked credentials from public schoolteachers who have been caught engaging in sexual misconduct with students.
Teachers across the country lose their licenses for disciplinary reasons, including sexual offenses victimizing children, but child-sex offenders in Hawaii may have retained their credentials because of an apparent gap in the system. The state board responsible for issuing and renewing teaching licenses needs to find a way to keep offending Hawaii teachers out of the classroom here and elsewhere.
The problem in doing so came to light in a comprehensive seven-month investigation by The Associated Press, which found that 2,570 educators nationally had their teaching credentials revoked, denied, voluntarily surrendered or limited from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct. No teaching license in Hawaii has been revoked for disciplinary reasons since 2001, even though at least two public school teachers in the state have been convicted of felonies for molesting children.
The lack of such action could allow those teachers to obtain jobs at schools on the mainland. "You could lose your job in Hawaii, but you could always go to another state and get another job," Sharon Mahoe, executive director of the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, acknowledged to the AP.
Nationally, the AP found that 1,801 children were victims of sexual offenses by schoolteachers during the five-year period, and more than 80 percent were students. The problem is even more widespread, since academic studies have shown that only about one in 10 victimized children report sexual abuse of any kind to people who can take action against the offender.
The Legislature put the Standards Board in control of teacher license renewals every five years in 2002. The board's 13 members include the University of Hawaii's dean of education, the state Board of Education chairman and teachers and administrators appointed by the governor.
The board employs Mahoe and a staff of seven. Unlike other states, she said, the Hawaii board has no attorneys or investigators to assist with disciplinary investigation, instead relying on the state attorney general for legal advice.
Mahoe said seven Hawaii teachers have lost their licenses since 2001, all because they had stopped paying licensing fees after resigning from their jobs. She said education officials must await final court rulings before asking the Standards Board to revoke licenses for disciplinary reasons, but no such action has been requested.
License revocation "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.
However, without disciplinary-related license revocation, Hawaii teachers who have been convicted of abusing children may be able to obtain teaching jobs in other states by showing that their Hawaii licenses had merely expired. That should not be allowed to happen.