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#84748 - 06/19/02 04:02 AM Silently Shifting Teachers in Sex Abuse Cases
Richard Gartner, PhD Offline
Past President

Registered: 09/20/00
Posts: 404
Loc: New York, NY, USA
Silently Shifting Teachers in Sex Abuse Cases

June 18, 2002

LAS VEGAS - Duane C. Johnson turned up in southern Nevada
nine years ago, a school recruiter's lucky break. He was a
former high school football coach from Utah, game to work
with the most troubled students here in Nevada. When a job
opened at Child Haven, a shelter for neglected children,
school administrators did not hesitate to send him over.

Within a year, however, a 13-year-old girl at Child Haven
stepped forward to accuse Mr. Johnson of repeatedly
exposing himself and groping her.

Only then, the local school administrators said, did they
learn what really propelled Mr. Johnson from his last job
in Utah: accusations by school officials that he had
impregnated a student there in her senior year. Although
Mr. Johnson contended that the relationship began three
weeks after the girl graduated from high school in late
June, she gave birth to an eight-pound baby the February
after her graduation, and an inquiry resulted in the loss
of Mr. Johnson's Utah teaching license.

"Had I known that, I would never have moved him to Child
Haven," said Matthew Lusk, principal of schools for Clark
County's juvenile courts. "They're the most vulnerable kids

Clark County's experience is hardly unusual. When teachers
are accused of sexual abuse, educators and law enforcement
authorities say, districts often rid themselves of the
problem by agreeing to keep quiet if the teacher moves on,
sometimes even offering them a financial settlement. The
practice, called passing the trash, avoids the difficulties
of criminal prosecution or protracted disciplinary

But districts on the receiving end of such transactions
have begun suing the originating districts for civil
damages when the teacher abuses again. So have the victims.
Legislatures are also starting to crack down, mandating
fingerprint and criminal record checks of teachers and
protecting employers who give unfavorable references from

While no central authority tracks the number of teachers
accused of molesting in one jurisdiction who then pick up
teaching in another, Charol Shakeshaft, a professor of
education administration at Hofstra University, studied 225
sexual abuse complaints against teachers made to federal
authorities from 1990 to 1994 and found that in only 1
percent of the cases did superintendents follow up to
ensure that molesting teachers did not continue teaching
elsewhere. In 54 percent, superintendents accepted the
teachers' resignations or retirements. Of the 121 teachers
removed this way, administrators knew for certain that 16
percent resumed teaching in other districts.

Julie Underwood, general counsel for the National School
Boards Association, acknowledged that allowing those
accused of molestation to leave districts without a mark on
their record was morally questionable. But she said school
principals often did not have the time required to pursue
disciplinary actions.

"It may take an entire week of time at hearings to dismiss
a teacher," Ms. Underwood said.

The receiving states, educators say, also shoulder some of
the responsibility. With nationwide teacher shortages,
states face pressure to provide credentials to teachers
swiftly and may overlook warning signals on employment

That explained, in part, how Mr. Johnson ended up teaching
in Nevada, where he is awaiting trial on charges of felony
lewdness with a minor. He has denied wrongdoing. The school
superintendent in Provo County, Utah, where Mr. Johnson was
previously disciplined, did not respond to a request for

Whatever measures states are taking, cases crop up
repeatedly around the country. In 1998, the trade paper
Education Week compiled a list of 244 cases involving
accusations of school sexual abuse that were then making
their way through courts and disciplinary hearings. It
concluded that teachers accused in one place were likely to
have been accused elsewhere before.

Educators acknowledge the problem persists despite recent

?In July, Melissa Ann Daw, a high school teacher in
Escambia County, Fla., will go to trial, accused of lewd
conduct with a 15-year-old former student. According to the
Escambia sheriff's office, Ms. Daw drew similar accusations
at her last teaching job, in Mobile, Ala., but left with
glowing references from her former boss. She has denied the

?Last year, Steven Nowicki, a teacher in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.,
was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in prison for
molesting two brothers, 8 and 10 years old, in their home.
Mr. Nowicki arrived in New York from a private school in
Connecticut, which had fired him over sexual abuse
accusations but gave him excellent recommendations, said
Christopher Meagher, a lawyer representing the victims'
families in civil suits against both the sending and
receiving schools.

?In February, a fourth-grade teacher, Jason Abhyankar, 28,
was convicted of molesting three boys 9 to 11 years old at
two California elementary schools. According to testimony
at his trial, Mr. Abhyankar was fired from his job at the
first school, Huntington Beach Elementary, where he had
been accused of sexual abuse, but he left with a letter of

No federal laws bar schools from permitting teachers
accused of sexual misconduct in one jurisdiction from
resuming teaching in another jurisdiction, but in recent
years, state legislatures have moved to address the
problem. At least two, Michigan and California, bar school
districts from settling charges against teachers by
promising to keep accusations of abuse secret.

Largely in response to the abuse problem, 36 states now
require teachers to be fingerprinted, though only half of
those demand both state and national criminal record checks
to license or hire teachers. Twenty-three states revoke a
teacher's license automatically for felony convictions
involving sex with children.

As of 1998, at least 26 states had passed laws explicitly
protecting employers who give unfavorable references from
defamation lawsuits. In addition, a national bulletin
board, run by the National Association of State Directors
of Teacher Education and Certification, lists teachers
whose licenses have been revoked or suspended, but
reporting is spotty, said Roy J. Einreinhofer, the
association's executive director.

For every loophole for vetting teachers that states seem to
have closed, said Lt. Tom Monahan, the former head of the
Las Vegas Police Department's sex crimes unit, others go
unnoticed. The required background checks typically go
through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, covering
felonies, but sexual abuse charges are often reduced to
misdemeanors in plea bargaining, he said.

Laws mandating that "credible" accusations must be reported
to the police or child welfare authorities leave leeway for
educators to remain silent, allowing them to claim
insufficient proof. In addition, because teachers at
private schools are usually not licensed, credentialed
teachers forced out for sexual misconduct in public schools
often migrate to them, law enforcement officials say.

Dr. Shakeshaft, basing her figures on an analysis of nine
independent studies, estimates that 15 percent of the
country's 50 million schoolchildren will be sexually abused
by a teacher or other school employee. Only 7 percent of
abused students, she said, report what happened. Terri
Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct
and Exploitation, a nonprofit group based in Nevada, said
victims felt doubly betrayed when their molester was
allowed to move on unpunished.

Employers also refrain from giving negative references out
of fear that teachers will sue for defamation. They contend
that unless charges are proved, it is unfair to deprive a
teacher of future employment. Though generally
unsuccessful, defamation suits are regularly "used as a
threat" by teachers accused of abuse, Ms. Underwood said.
Still, in recent years, school districts that free
molesters have faced a countervailing threat of lawsuits by
later victims and the districts that the molesters have
moved to.

In California, a 13-year-old student accused her school's
vice principal of abuse and successfully sued both his
current and former school districts. In a 1997 ruling on
that case, the California Supreme Court said that former
employers must disclose information that is "potentially
relevant to the employee's fitness to perform the
subsequent job."

If Duane Johnson's hiring here showed less than full
disclosure on the part of school officials in Provo County,
state officials here have acknowledged that it also
revealed carelessness on Nevada's part.

Mr. Johnson arrived in Nevada with strong letters of
recommendation from his last job. He acknowledged that his
Utah teaching license had been revoked but said he was
challenging the action. Nevada officials did not

In 1999, the head of Nevada's teacher licensing authority
learned about the sexual misconduct accusation in Utah and
tried to revoke the Nevada license. But the state attorney
general here stopped the effort, citing insufficient legal
grounds, since the Department of Education had known that
the Utah license had been revoked.

One point, however, was never in dispute. Whatever Nevada's
teacher credentialing office knew about Mr. Johnson's
record, its officials never told those in Clark County, who
hired Mr. Johnson. Dr. Lusk said Clark officials called Mr.
Johnson's last school in Utah and were told only good
things about him. The disclosure of his past, in news
accounts after his arrest, outraged school officials in
Clark and prompted them to draft new, tougher questions for
checking references, said Lina Gutierrez, the school
district's executive director of license personnel.

Oddly enough, Mr. Johnson's reason for leaving Provo City
High School in Utah was amply covered in the local news in
the early 1990's. His previous employer would have faced no
liability in disclosing the accusation.


#84749 - 07/08/02 09:38 PM Re: Silently Shifting Teachers in Sex Abuse Cases
integrator Offline

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 107
Loc: New York
Of course, covering things up and letting sleeping dogs lie might not be a bad thing in the odd case of someone who has found therapy. And it's not like perpetrators can't be helped by therapy. With all the commercials on TV against drugs and for other causes, you'd think the benefits of therapy would also find a place. Certainly critical review of such charges could be a move to encourage the cathartic type of responsible response to inappropriate expressions of perverted impulses.

#84750 - 07/08/02 10:46 PM Re: Silently Shifting Teachers in Sex Abuse Cases
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
covering things up and letting sleeping dogs lie can NEVER be an option, it gives the wrong signals to both perpetrators and the authority figures around them. And who decides what "level" of offence gets ignored and what doesn't ? And is it kept secret ? Any kind of cover up destroys public faith in any institution, the catholic church being the prime example.
And more importantly a cover up of ANY degree means a victim is being ignored and destined to remain silent.
This happened to me.
The only option is the law.

I would also disagree with your faith in perpetrators being helped by therapy, maybe some are. But I believe that most aren't. Reoffending is well documented.

Certainly critical review of such charges could be a move to encourage the cathartic type of responsible response to inappropriate expressions of perverted impulses.
It's sexual abuse, and severe punishment by being removed from society for a long time is the punishment, many might say that's the easy option.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

#84751 - 07/14/02 02:03 AM Re: Silently Shifting Teachers in Sex Abuse Cases
integrator Offline

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 107
Loc: New York
I hear you, Lloydy. Except, those circumstances don't always apply, and the legal option just isn't there in some cases. My own experience includes something that took place in the hands of somebody who had care of me for three days thirty some years ago. Ugh! Legal remedy is so unlikely and remote.
For me, it is therapeutic and karmic activism. Martial arts training, for instance. By the same token, I can empathize with some perpetrators who are not too far gone, and might just have some awareness. The article/entry above about a New York town, for instance, describes the benefits to a prisoner of a therapeutic system of thinking. My contention was intending to advocate the promotion of therapeutic lifestyles to benefit victims, certainly, and perpetrators, incidentally. Empowering people preventively actually sucks the life out of perpetrators. As in the movie Analyze This, of course, accountability needs to be established, but it should fit the crime. And genuine good behavior with possibility of parole seems reasonable, as well. As befits the circumstances. With this whole priest thing, they're considering the difference between one time offenders and others, for instance.
Moreover, I think the idea of hard labor would best be applied by having strong doses of therapeutic systems taught and taught and almost browbeaten into inmates. Forced ethical conversion, in a sense. After all, people who watch films about Mother Theresa tend to develop extremely healthy physical responses. Imagine that. Kind of the reverse of Clockwork Orange, if I recall it correctly, with a prisoner hooked into an avoidance procedure.
Otherwise, the long arm of the law can be useful, but in some circumstances and in the bigger picture only extends so far. Unfortunately. Then it calls for other measures.


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