The Washington Supreme Court says that the names of teachers do not have to be disclosed in unsubstantiated cases of sexual misconduct, the Seattle Times reports. By a 6-3 vote, the court said names must be made public only in cases where sexual misconduct has been found or some form of discipline has taken place, the court ruled. The court ruled in acase brought by 15 teachers who wanted to prevent their districts from releasing their identities in response to a public-records request by the Seattle Times.
The newspaper wanted the records as part of an investigation of coaches who sexually abused students yet continued to be employed in the public schools. The investigation, published in 2003, found 159 coaches in Washington who were fired or reprimanded for sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape. At least 98 continued to teach or coach. School districts often failed to investigate complaints against coaches and didn’t report them to law enforcement or the state education office, The Times found. David Boardman, executive editor of The Times, said the ruling “will make it much more difficult for the public to protect children against predators [and]nearly impossible to assess whether school districts are adequately investigating complaints by students and their parents.”