Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., lag behind other states in what they release to the public about teachers accused of misconduct.
An investigation by the News4 I-Team revealed almost 70 D.C.-area teachers have had their licenses revoked or canceled since the beginning of 2016, but parents and prospective employers are unable to readily see the reasons why.
The education agencies that oversee teacher licensing and misconduct investigations in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. do not list the rationales or findings of reviews of teachers from whom they’ve revoked or canceled licenses.
The Virginia Department of Education maintains a publicly accessible list of teachers who’ve surrendered their licenses or from whom licenses have been revoked, but the state’s website does not include records detailing why the actions were taken.
The Maryland State Department of Education and the District of Columbia Office of State Superintendent oversee teacher licensure revocations, but neither posts even the names of teachers from whom licenses have been revoked. Those names are only available through a formal records request or a submission under the Freedom of Information Act.
Several nearby states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and South Carolina, publicly list the nature of the alleged misconduct and the findings of investigators along with the names of the teachers against whom licensure actions have been taken.
The lack of readily available information about teacher license revocations leaves parents or prospective employers vulnerable to allowing children near possible bad actors, according to students who’ve alleged misconduct by former teachers. Two students who’d once accused a former Fairfax County Public Schools teacher of inappropriate touching said they were unaware the teacher surrendered his license years later or why he’d done so.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh said Virginia education administrators should consider making their investigations of teacher misconduct available to the public online.
“This information should be passed out,” he said. “Parents should know about it. We need transparency to keep our kids safe."
Maryland state administrators said the state is considering posting additional information about teacher licensure actions.
“MSDE has a plan under consideration that would add this and other certification information to our public website,” Maryland State Department of Education spokesman Bill Reinhard said. “At the moment, we are attempting to work through software issues that -- once solved -- would automate this process.”
“OSSE does not currently post on any general public platform the names of teachers who have had their teaching licenses revoked or canceled, D.C.’s Office of State Superintendent spokesman Fred Lewis said. “However, as a participating member jurisdiction, OSSE does report to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) clearinghouse where we share and exchange information with other member state jurisdictions regarding educator disciplinary actions taken.”
The Virginia Department of Education said its licensure actions are promptly reported to other public education departments.
“Once a license is canceled, that fact -- the cancellation -- is going to be shared with all 132 school districts in the state, and it will be shared with all chief school officers in the nation," DOE spokesman Charles Pyle said.
A publicly available list of licensure revocations and investigations is not universally supported. The Maryland State Education Association, which represents public school teachers in two dozen school districts, said such a public listing could negatively impact falsely accused teachers who have nonetheless surrendered their licenses.
“A website that indefinitely shames people who have already been removed -- in many cases, after being falsely accused -- does not make kids safer,” a spokesman said. “Instead, we need to focus on prevention by setting high standards for entry to the profession and making sure districts conduct thorough background checks that include the detailed information that is already available to all educational agencies for applicants who have previously worked in public education.”
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.