The Utah State Board of Education is trying to decide how best to discipline teachers who’ve been involved in misconduct. Specifically, they are asking: under what circumstances should they be expected to permanently revoke a teacher’s educator license?
On Friday, state school board members received a recommendation outlining specific disciplinary actions for teachers who’ve acted inappropriately or broken the law. Right now, the board doesn’t really have a uniform standard for disciplining teachers, although as a general rule, they’ll revoke a teacher’s license for having sex with a student or viewing child pornography on or off school property. But the proposal suggests a minimum three-year suspension for a teacher who’s been convicted of child abuse or any felony and up to three years suspension for a teacher who repeatedly views adult pornography on school property.
School board member Jennifer Johnson suggests these recommendations could be stronger, noting by this set of presumptions, a felon could return to the classroom and that concerns her.
"My position is I just think that a first degree felon, that’s very serious," Johnson says. "I don’t see why a first degree felon, it would be appropriate for that person to be with children,"
Associate Superintendent Judy Park says there’s no doubt it’s a delicate balance.
“The board wants to make sure as they receive recommendations from UPPAC and as they respond to those recommendations that it’s done in a way that protects adults; they have privacy, they have rights, but most importantly to protect children," Park says.
Board member Jennifer Johnson says even if the board were to create a uniform policy for teacher discipline, there are currently no consequences for local school administrators who do not report misconduct to the board. She says a teacher could be reprimanded at the district level for viewing adult pornography for instance, but that may never be reported to the state school board.
The board is expected to continue its discussion on the UPPAC recommendation at its next meeting in November. It’s unclear when, or if they will take action on the proposal.