‘Serious cases of teacher misconduct’ found in state educator misconduct audit

SALT LAKE CITY – A newly released state performance report on educator misconduct finds sexual assault, physical assault and drugs and alcohol among “very serious cases” that have gone unreported to the Utah State Board of Education.

Surprising findings from a performance audit the state conducted on educator misconduct in Utah show more cases are going unreported than reported.

Physical assault.

“A teacher threw a wrench at a student and hit the student with the wrench,” said Utah State Auditor John Dougall.

Sexual assault.
“A teacher was giving extra credit to a student who would behave in a certain way and make sexually explicit comments,” Dougall continued.

Drugs and alcohol.
“A teacher was drunk or showed up at school under the influence of drugs,” he added.

These are the “serious cases of teacher misconduct” that you don’t want to see take place in your child’s school, much less have them go unreported to the State Board of Education as required by law.

“We don’t believe this is a weakness in the law, nor a weakness in the rule, it’s just a lack of compliance with that,” Dougall said.

To look into the alleged misconduct, the state conducted a performance audit using a sample of roughly 20 local education agencies (LEA) — all of which were charter schools or school districts that the State Board of Education school board had voiced concerns with to the state.

“We went hand by hand, file by file, looking for these cases,” Dougall said.
In total, the state found 17 cases that had been reported by these schools, and 28 cases that should have been reported but weren’t.

“There were more cases that went unreported than were reported in the sample set we looked at,” Dougall said. “These cases clearly should have been reported.”

Dougall pointed out that the LEAs were obviously aware of these issues, "otherwise they would not have been in the personnel files." He believes the audit shines light on a hidden issue.

When asked if he was surprised by the findings, Dougall said unfortunately, he wasn't.

“Currently, it’s kind of like no harm no foul to the administration if they don’t report," he explained. "Except students can suffer as a result of misconduct."

Now the state is making recommendations to the Board of Education, including the addition of periodic audits like this one and penalties for administration for failure to report.

“Clearly it’s in the interest of students,” Dougall said. “I mean do you want to be the student or the parent of the student that gets sexually assaulted by a teacher, or physically assaulted by a teacher? Absolutely not.”

Dougall said from their perspective, The State Board of Education does take this seriously, and over the last ten years has worked to clarify what constitutes educator misconduct and has become more serious in terms of what the penalties are.