GAO Reports on Cases of Public and Private Schools that Hired/Retained Individuals with Histories of Sexual Misconduct

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) has published a report, Selected Cases of Public and Private Schools That Hired or Retained Individuals with Histories of Sexual Misconduct,  that reveals findings from 15 cases the GAO  examined in which individuals with histories of  sexual misconduct were hired or retained by public and private schools as teachers, support staff, volunteers, and contractors. Previous GAO testimonies have described cases of physical abuse of children at youth residential programs and public and private schools. Children, however, are also vulnerable to sexual abuse and the GAO was asked to (1) examine the circumstances surrounding cases where K-12 schools hired or retained individuals with histories of sexual misconduct and determine the factors contributing to such employment actions, and (2) provide an overview of selected federal and state laws related to the employment of convicted sex offenders in K-12 schools

In the 15 cases that were examined individuals with histories of sexual misconduct were, in fact, hired or retained as teachers, support staff, volunteers, and contractors. In at least 11 of the 15 cases, the offenders were individuals who previously targeted children. Moreover, in 6 cases, the offenders used their positions as school employees or volunteers to  abuse more  children.

The GAO found that the following factors contributed to hiring or retaining these individuals: (1) school officials  allowed teachers who had engaged in sexual misconduct toward students to resign rather than face disciplinary action, often providing subsequent employers with positive references; (2) schools did not perform preemployment criminal history checks; (3) even if schools did perform these back ground checks, they may have been inadequate in that they were not national, fingerprint-based, or recurring; and (4) schools failed to inquire into troubling information regarding criminal histories on employment applications.

Finally, the GAO did not find any federal laws regulating the employment of sex offenders in public or private schools and the laws at the state level were widely varied. For example, some states require a national fingerprint-based criminal history check for school employment, while others do not. State laws also vary regarding whether past convictions must result in termination from school employment, revocation of a teaching license, or refusal to hire. The full GAO report can be found at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11200.pdf and a summary can found at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-200.

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