MEDFORD, Ore. –Nine teachers in Oregon have lost their licenses for sexual misconduct in just the last year. Here locally, two teachers are under fire for allegations of sexual abuse toward children in their care. But while it may seem like these cases are cropping up more and more, on a national level, Oregon is one of the top states in the nation to report and act on these types of allegations and crimes.
“People can’t engage in conduct here and we’re not going to hear about it,” said Victoria Chamberlain, Executive Director of the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.
Chamberlain’s department issues teaching licenses to new teachers, and transfers from other states.
“We see people with fairly serious convictions that occasionally who apply, I don’t know why they don’t think we’re going to find out,” Chamberlain said. “Not only do we do the fingerprint background, but if someone comes in from out of state, we do Google checks.”
She said the Commission does an extensive background check process, including criminal history checks.
“Any way we can find any information on them to be sure they’re safe to be around kids,” Elizabeth Keller, Director of Licensure and Professional Practices said.
The Commission also investigates any reported misconduct.
“When you find a teacher texting students at one o’clock in the morning, that’s probably not okay, or on phone calls with them, or now the cell phone carriers can give us records that show the dates and times of those,” Keller said. “That’s pretty good evidence to take to the commission that maybe there was a boundary issue with this teacher and that student.”
Keller gives her team’s conclusion to Chamberlain, who suggests a consequence to the Commission.
“I may recommend that they dismiss a case, and they may disagree with me, and then at the time that they’re considering the report, they decide what the sanctions should be,” Chamberlain said.
The Commission, made up of 17 educators from across the state, all actively working in schools, meets four times a year to consider these cases. If the misconduct warrants a revocation, the Commission then sends their decision to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, a non-profit national database that tracks teachers who’s licenses have been revoked.
A study done by USA Today found that 1,400 cases across the country in which a teacher lost their license were not reported to the national database. That same study gave Oregon an “A” in running background checks and mandatory reporting laws.
“I think it’s just a sense of responsibility,” Chamberlain said.
The Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission makes all of their investigations available to the public online. For more information, click here.
The USA Today study is also available online, and covers in detail how each state runs background checks on perspective and transferring teachers. For more information, click here.
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