At least 15 states are considering stronger oversight and tougher punishment for educators who take sexual advantage of their students, reports the Associated Press. When abuse happens, administrators too often fail to let others know about it, and too many legal loopholes let offenders stay in the classroom. The ideas emerging in state capitals come as media have been reporting steadily on individual cases, along with more in-depth examinations of the problem. An Associated Press investigation published in October found 2,570 educators whose credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered, or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 after allegations of sexual misconduct. Experts say those cases are representative of a much deeper problem because of underreporting.
In eight states, advocates of changes said the AP investigation had inspired their proposals. Others said they had grown concerned from individual cases of abuse in their states, or other news reports that looked at the problem locally or in their state. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer supports automatic suspension of teachers convicted of sex crimes, which now requires lengthy hearings. Maine Gov. John Baldacci hopes to share the names of abusive teachers with other states, which a 1913 confidentiality law there prohibits. In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed federal legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, a Florida Republican, to create a national databank of abusive teachers, a hotline for complaints, and federal funds for state investigators.