NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A USA Today Network investigation is exposing serious flaws with teacher licensing practices that allow accused pedophiles to continue teaching by moving from one state to another.
The Tennessean, a Network affiliate, reports the Volunteer State’s board of education has reversed the revocations of dozens of teachers who have engaged in inappropriate conduct with students in other states.
“I fell so deeply in love w/ (sic) you and still do every time I look into your eyes or kiss your lips,” Swafford wrote to the teen, who also served as his family’s babysitter, according to North Carolina records cited by The Tennessean.
“I want you so badly. I want to hold you and kiss you. I want to touch your face and hair and kiss you deeply,” Swafford wrote. “I want so badly to press your body to mine like we are one and feel your body tense up with just the right touch. I want to make you totally understand how I love you.”
The disturbing love letters and other evidence convinced officials in North Carolina that Swafford didn’t deserve to lead a classroom of teens, but the teacher moved to Grundy County, Tenn., where he continued to teach until the state caught on, and he surrendered his teaching license in 2009. Despite the revocation, Swafford “remained closely involved in youth baseball, football, softball and cheerleading from 2009 to June 2014,” when he first applied for a Tennessee teaching certification, according to the Tennessean.
The next year, the Tennessee Board of Education denied his request, stating Swafford hadn’t sufficiently proven the reasons for his North Carolina license revocation are resolved.
The teacher then appealed the decision, and Administrative Law Judge Kim Summers in November ruled the state board made a mistake, and should give Swafford a second chance.
“There is no evidence in the record that justifies the denial of (Swafford’s) request for reinstatement,” she ruled, “especially in light of the many character witnesses who believe reinstatement to be warranted and appropriate.”
The news site points out that both the state board of education and local school districts are required to conduct criminal background checks on potential employees, but many educators accused of molesting students or other bad behavior aren’t always convicted in court and do not carry a criminal record.
The epidemic of educators sexually abusing students and the convoluted system that helps to perpetuate the abuse – including union-negotiated agreements that exchange a letter of recommendation for a letter of resignation – is an issue EAGnews has repeatedly highlighted for several years.
As the Tennessean points out, a national database run by the nonprofit National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification seeks to catalogue educators with revoked licenses, but not all states report revocations so many educators slip through the cracks.
“The Tennessean found at least 13 teachers who had had their license revoked or suspended or had their application for reinstatement denied in Tennessee who couldn’t be located on the national clearinghouse run by NASDTEC,” according to the news site. “The punishments for those teachers include a permanent revocation for sexual battery, a three-year suspension for inappropriate contact with a minor and a five-year suspension for drug and alcohol offenses.”
The Tennessean also cited dozens of examples of educators who lost their license in other states but managed to regain their teaching privileges in Tennessee.
Many of the examples involve situations similar to Swafford’s.
And the USA Today Network investigation provides plenty of other examples of educators who have abused students or engaged in other questionable or illegal activity who managed to continue their careers despite their misdeeds.
The effort also grades states on an A through F grading system based on how well officials share information about educator misconduct and apply best practices to curb abuse.