AP Investigation: Sexual Misconduct By Teachers Plagues US Schools
Undated (AP) - There's a dirty secret lurking in America's schools: sexually abusive teachers who prey on the very students they're supposed to be nurturing.
Students are groped, raped, seduced and think they're in love. And very often, their abusers get away with it. Most of the abuse never gets reported. Often, cases that are reported end with no action.
And molesters are allowed to keep teaching, because no one has found a surefire way to keep them out of classrooms.
In a seven-month investigation, the Associated Press examined disciplinary records from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Reporters found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic. And young people were the victims in at least 1,801 of them.
And more than 80 percent of those were students. The investigation turned up a variety of efforts to stop individual offenders, but also found a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse.
Fellow teachers look the other way. State efforts to strengthen laws against sex abuse by teachers have run into opposition from school boards and teachers unions.
In Congress, a measure that would train investigators and create a national registry of offenders hasn't even gotten a hearing.
Every school has rules governing teacher behavior. Every state has laws against child abuse, and many specifically outlaw teachers taking sexual liberties with students.
Every district has administrators who watch out for sexual misconduct by teachers, but legal loopholes, fear of lawsuits and inattention all have weakened the safeguards, and the system fails hundreds of kids each year.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.