Eight Mississippi educators have surrendered their licenses after being notified that they had violated a state standard against sexual misconduct with students.
A ninth educator’s license has been revoked, and 11 more cases are pending, Cindy Coon, director of licensure for the state Department of Education, told The Clarion-Ledger.
She said that in 2010, the department acted in eight such cases, only one of which was reported by a school district.
“It is working,” Coon said. “And we are definitely following up on these (reports) as quickly as we get them.”
All 20 cases last year resulted from reports sent by school districts since a new state law went into effect in April. A month earlier, the state Board of Education approved an ethics code and conduct standards for teachers.
The new law works better than the old one for several reasons, said Jim Keith, who has been practicing education law for about 30 years.
School districts can let employees resign instead of being fired, but they must still send the information to the state Department of Education to decide whether the license should be revoked, he said.
“In the past, the only mandatory report was to the district attorney,” Keith said. Now the report goes not only to the district attorney, but also the Department of Human Services and the state Department of Education if it is believed there was sexual activity between an educator and a student, he said, noting that sexual activity includes many other actions such as hugging and kissing.
Education officials can be fined or go to jail for not reporting a school employee’s sexual misconduct against a student. Under state law, an educator’s license also can be revoked for failure to report a school employee’s sexual misconduct with a student.
“The failure to report is as bad as the actual conduct itself,” Keith said. “If you do not report and you should have, there are some legal ramifications for you.”
Contracts educators signed for the 2011-12 school year also included language that they agree to abide by the code of conduct.
Highly publicized scandals, including that of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, underscore “the high duty we have to make sure that No. 1, this conduct does not go on, and No. 2, if this conduct does go on, you cannot sweep it under the rug,” Keith said. The reports of misconduct would follow the educator to other states.