Sexual Misconduct in Schools

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott recently announced that the Department of Education is going to get tougher with teachers and other school employees who are accused of sexual misconduct. That’s welcome news. But what’s shocking is that Mr. Walcott had to issue this crackdown at all. It turns out that school employees have been able to avoid discipline even when they’ve been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. That’s horrifying. And it speaks to the larger issue of school reform—it simply is not easy to rid the union-protected school work force of people who shouldn’t be in a classroom or anywhere near children. Mr. Walcott ordered a complete review of the Department of Education’s disciplinary process earlier this year after several school workers were busted on charges relating to inappropriate sexual behavior. The chancellor himself investigated about 250 cases. The result? The Department of Education has taken steps to fire or has already fired eight employees who were insufficiently disciplined for what Mr. Walcott called “horrendous acts.” Four of the employees are teachers with tenure—and one of those teachers has been investigated twice before for allegedly inappropriate behavior. The Department of Education will soon introduce a new system that will allow principals to find out whether a potential employee has ever been disciplined because of inappropriate behavior. While this move is welcome, it’s more than a little shocking to realize that such a system wasn’t in place already, and that teachers have been allowed to return to the classroom despite multiple allegations. The Daily News reported that a social studies teacher returned to the classroom three times after he was accused of inappropriate behavior toward female students. Mr. Walcott, a parent and grandparent, clearly understands the gravity of this issue. It is critical that he continue to weed out not just the incompetents, but the dangerous teachers as well. The union would be well-advised to stand aside and let the chancellor get the job done.