13News Now Investigation: Teacher sexual misconduct

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by David Alan, 13News Now

WVEC

Posted on January 30, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 30 at 7:40 PM

NORFOLK -- The stories shock us. Teachers caught in sex scandals with their students.

Cedric Cradle, a former Churchland High School teacher and football coach, took indecent liberties with a 16-year-old female student.  Michael Jablonski, a former Green Run High School teacher, was caught with child pornography. Carrie Bishop, a former Kings Fork High School teacher and cheerleading coach, engaged in sexual intercourse with a student. “It really saddens me and disappoints me that we have educators out there today who are doing these things to children,” was one man's reaction to these stories.

Our 13News Now Investigation found that since 2008, more than 200 teachers in Virginia have lost their professional license. 116 of those cases involved sexual misconduct with a child and 10 involved child pornography. Dr. Charol Shakeshaft ,VCU professor and the author of a pre-eminent study on sexual misconduct by teachers and other school employees, says “We do have teachers who abuse and we need to pay attention to that.”

Shakeshaft says seven percent of students report being the target of physical sexual abuse by a teacher or other school employee. Nine percent report also being shown pornography of getting inappropriate text messages. She says only 11% of students who are sexually abused actually report it. Shakeshaft estimates 4.5 million kids will be the target of some type of sexual misconduct at the hands of an adult in their school between kindergarten and 12th grade. “We cannot just wipe it away even one child is a lot, but we have not done enough to stop it,” she added.

Our 13News Now investigation found Virginia was among the first states to require criminal background checks for teachers and school employees, a policy that later was expanded to include private school teachers. However, Shakeshaft says background checks do not go far enough to keep kids safe. She points out a high number of abusers do not show up in those documents.

”There’s no more important responsibility then keeping kids safe in school,“ Charles Pyle with the Virginia Department of Education told us. Pyle also says that in 2007 the state took even more aggressive steps to protect kids after it was discovered that more than 100 teachers in Virginia who were guilty of sexual misconduct had yet to have their professional license revoked. Some of those teachers were in prison.

As a result, in 2008, the state mandated that local districts develop even stricter Sexual Misconduct Policies. We reviewed a number of those policies from school districts across Hampton Roads. We found pages of information about what constitutes sexual harassment and where the appropriate boundaries should be between teachers and students.

However, Shakeshaft says policies like these need to do more than just educate teachers about what they can and cannot do. Districts need to provide teachers with regular training designed specifically to help them spot when the teacher next door may be involved with a student and report it.”I didn’t realize what I was seeing, or I didn’t want to report anything in case I was wrong and I would have ruined a teacher’s life. I’ve never heard someone say I knew I had to report it because if I didn’t, I would have ruined a student’s life,” Shakeshaft  adds.

Shakeshaft says all allegations against teachers should be investigated by professionals, not school principals who lack the proper training. She believes all allegations should be reported to the state so  patterns can be tracked and appropriate action can be taken against a teacher’s license if necessary. “I’m like a cheerleader for administrators and teachers. I think they do wonderful work. At the same time, I know the good ones do not want the ones who sexually abuse in their schools," Shakeshaft told us.

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