By The Topeka Capital-Journal, Aug. 16
The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday lifted the teaching licenses of four people convicted of sex crimes against students.
The teachers, three men and one woman, will never see the inside of a Kansas classroom again. Others who are inclined to prey upon children will, however. It’s difficult to identify sex offenders among beginning teachers.
Identifying teachers who have a history of preying on students should be easier, but that’s not always the case.
School districts in Kansas and elsewhere have the ability to change that, and they should.
During the recent Kansas State Board of Education meeting, board member Carolyn Campbell said she was aware of cases in which school districts had allowed teachers to resign. The teachers later got jobs in Topeka and offended again.
Board member Ken Willard also noted some district attorneys were not reporting all felony convictions to the Kansas Department of Education, as required by law, so they can be checked against employment rosters. In Kansas, all felons are prohibited from teaching unless granted a waiver.
District attorneys should comply with the law, even though there is no penalty for noncompliance. But when it comes to keeping sex offenders out of the classrooms, school districts can take matters into their own hands.
All they really have to do is end the disgusting practice of letting some offenders resign to avoid prosecution. Allowing someone to resign — apparently with the consent of the victim and parents — can save a district some embarrassment but the result is a teacher is sent away without a criminal record and is free to go to another school and prey on children there.
It is unconscionable that people in positions of authority would allow that to happen.
If all sex offenses against students resulted in prosecution, school districts across the county could share information about their own teachers and other employees convicted of sex offenses, creating a central database that could be checked against employees and job applicants. Even if court records of an offender’s conviction somehow failed to follow him or her to another state once released from prison, the database would prevent the offender from getting a teaching job.
Personnel rules often limit the amount of information about teachers that a district can release to the public. There are no such limits on court records. They are subject to the Kansas Open Records Act — and similar laws in other states — and can be publicly shared.
School districts everywhere must ensure sex offenders are prosecuted, then share all conviction records.