NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee hasn’t done enough to prevent teachers accused of sexual misconduct from getting education jobs in other districts, state auditors say.
Local news outlets report the Tennessee Comptroller’s office issued a series concerns and recommendations to officials Wednesday after a 2016 USA Today investigation prompted an audit.
USA Today found instances of accused teachers in Tennessee who routinely drifted into new districts only to be met with similar allegations in their new roles. Its investigation had looked at each state’s attempts to reduce how often educators with a history of sexual misconduct could move from one school to another without repercussions, and ultimately gave Tennessee an ‘F’ for its efforts.
The state review focused on five specific areas: safeguards and risks in hiring school personnel, state record keeping of educator misconduct cases, federal requirements concerning the hiring of school personnel, clarity in law and policies and child sexual abuse prevention curriculums.
According to the audit, Tennessee suffers from shortcomings related to the clarity of current legislation and background checks, among other areas. The audit also notes the state has yet to address a 2015 federal law meant deter teachers suspected of misconduct from shuffling to other jobs elsewhere.
The audit suggests state lawmakers create a task force or host a series of hearings meant to analyze the report and identify responsible parties and possible solutions.
State Senate Education Committee Chair Dolores Gresham said legislation is being drafted to address some of the listed concerns but said it was too early to say what form the proposals might take.
Tennessee Board of Education Executive Director Sara Morrison said there’s more Tennessee needs to do as a state to address the issue.
“Our agency is one piece of this, but we are serious about our responsibility,” she said. “We need to ensure the safety of all teachers and students in schools is firmly on everyone’s mind.”