By Victor Skinner
HARRISBURG – The number of reported teacher misconduct cases is on the rise in Pennsylvania, a fact that supports the state Department of Education’s move to toughen standards for dealing with alleged offenders.
State education leaders told the media that 563 reports of teacher misconduct were filed in the last year, a stark increase from an average of 250 between 2008 and 2011, the Tribune Democrat reports.
Many of the cases involved teachers helping students cheat on standardized tests, but alleged offenses also included many instances of sexual misconduct with students – including texting sexually explicit messages and photos, or sexual contact with minors, the news site reports.
Department of Education attorney Shane Crosby, who investigates the cases, said that state officials typically close roughly half of the reported cases within a year of when they’re filed, but the recent increase in reports will significantly slow the process.
“ … (W)ith this increase in the caseload, when we receive 563 cases in one year, we’re not going to be able to do that,” Crosby said, according to the Tribune Democrat.
Crosby said many teacher misconduct cases involve “uncharged criminal misconduct” – such as continued flirtatious behavior with a student, the news site reports.
“That may not result in a criminal charge, but that’s still very serious misconduct from the department’s perspective,” he said.
Gov. Tom Corbett seems to be taking the situation seriously. He’s included $775,000 in his 2013-14 budget to address the issue.
“The funding would add three staff members to the educator discipline division, and two staff members to the Professional Standards and Practices Commission, which hears the cases,” the Tribune Democrat reports.
The news story notes that the number of published stories of teacher misconduct is on the rise, and draws a logical conclusion.
“We trust teachers and school administrators with our most precious commodity, our children, and we expect all of them to be role models. While obviously that is expecting too much, the overwhelming number of educators we know conduct themselves in the highest standards and are truly concerned with the well-being of our youngsters,” the Tribune Democrat opines.
“When wrongdoing does occur, however, we expect those involved will be reported, both to the appropriate state offices and to our school communities, and that their cases will be expedited quickly and, if called for, harshly.”