By Dewitt Jones
and Tim Gilson
Our children are our future. As board members, administrators and staff members, we can’t allow anyone associated with the public schools to harm any child at any time.
The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) and Administrative Code Chapter 25 provide clear direction about our responsibilities regarding public school employees’ relationships with our students. Violations of these two BOEE standards are ethical violations and Iowa licensure can and has been revoked.
Standard I: Conviction of crimes, sexual or other immoral conduct with or toward a student, and child and dependent adult abuse.
Standard VI: Unethical practice toward other members of the profession, parents, students and the community.
All the laws, codes and rules won’t help our abused children unless 100 percent of all public school employees act quickly when founded behavior violates Standards I and/or VI.
All Iowa educators are mandatory child abuse reporters. All Iowa teachers are certified as child abuse reporters. If an allegation is “founded” that a licensed Iowa teacher or administrator didn’t report abuse, he or she may lose his or her license.
There is no room in our schools for employees who are sexual predators. The laws give the schools more power than the courts to discipline and remove employees for founded cases of abuse. The dilemma is the will of every Iowa district to have a fierce intolerance for violations and act, within the laws, with great speed.
When allegations are made of ethics violations, districts are forbidden to divulge information from an employee’s personal file. This often causes the public to become frustrated, especially when an employee is placed on paid administrative leave while investigations take place. The law requires due process and in many cases we don’t hear about, the allegations are unfounded.
State Rep. Royd Chambers has raised concerns about schools’ reporting. “Unless this person is charged with a crime, the BOEE doesn’t find out about it,” he told the Gazette (April 25 editorial). “What we have is educators resigning, agreeing to give up their jobs in exchange for the district stopping the investigation ”
However, districts can and do send what they believe to be ethical violations to the BOEE. But as Rep. Chambers correctly states, some districts try to strike a deal with employees who are suspected of ethical violations instead of taking the case to the limit, which includes reporting to the BOEE. This “dance of the lemons” must stop.
New requirements that provide stiff public sanctions and fines for school districts found guilty of sweeping predators under the carpet for another child to be abused in some other school district must be established.
It’s safe to say that public accountability can quickly force an institution to comply with rules that will help protect our children from predators in our schools.
Dewitt Jones is an associate professor in educational leadership at the University of Northern Iowa; Tim Gilson is assistant professor in educational leadership at UNI.