GAO Issues Report on Sexual Abuse of Kids in K-12 Schools

By Teresa Anderson

Schools across the country have hired people who have sexually exploited or targeted children in the past, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The GAO compared school employment databases from 19 states and Washington, D.C, in between 2007 and 2009 to the National Sex Offender Registry to find cases of sexual abuse that resulted in a criminal conviction.

In investigating known cases of sexual abuse by school employees, the GAO found that people with histories of sexual misconduct were hired or retained as teachers, support staff, volunteers, or contractors. In 11 of the 15 cases the GAO reviewed, the offenders previously targeted children. In six cases, the offenders used their positions in the schools to abuse more children, according to the report (.pdf).

Several factors contributed to the abusers being hired in these cases, the GAO discovered. One was that school officials allowed offenders to resign rather than pursuing criminal charges against them.

In some cases, these offenders were given positive reviews, allowing them to move to a new school and continue the abuse. In one case, a teacher was compelled to resign from a school in Connecticut after he was caught accessing pornography on a school computer. The school reported the incident but gave the teacher a positive recommendation. A second school hired him but asked him to resign a short time later and, again, gave him a positive review. He was hired by a third school where he sexually assaulted two students. School officials interviewed for the report said that firing a teacher for sexual misconduct is expensive and unwise due to the potential for litigation.

GAO-11-200.pdf358.6 KB


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