A new teacher-tracking system is needed to stop dangerous educators like those exposed in a Boston Herald special report from hiding criminal records or questionable behavior with kids and returning to the classroom, experts say. Shoddy reference checks, lack of communication between private and public schools, state foot-dragging in revoking teachers’ licenses and not checking prospective teachers against the FBI criminal offender registry all contributed to the problem.
Some gaps could be filled by creating a new agency, said attorney Daniel Heffernan, who represents students abused by educators. The organization would track where teachers work, making sure they can’t omit an employer on their resume. Former employers would be exempt from being sued for divulging damaging information from personnel records. Out-of-state criminal records would be checked. Civil lawsuits, restraining orders and even divorce proceedings could be examined. “There are a lot of things you can do to better ensure there is not someone inappropriate getting a job,” he said. Methuen, Ma., School Superintendent Phillip Littlefield said there must be a national solution to the problem that education insiders call “passing the trash” or the “mobile molestor syndrome.” He wants a nationwide tracking system for teachers that will instantaneously reveal blemishes on a teacher’s record.