Post-Sandusky, PA Punishing Teachers for Misconduct

Better awareness means more enforcement.

The Tribune-Review reports that Pennsylvania schools are cracking down on teacher misconduct in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal:

Although the number of teachers disciplined rose steadily for several years, many experts and law enforcement officials say the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case at Penn State University was a game-changer because it heightened awareness about the importance of reporting possible abuse.

In 2011, the year prosecutors accused the assistant football coach of molesting boys, the Professional Standards and Practices Commission issued 79 disciplinary actions. The next year, the commission, which handles allegations of teacher misconduct, issued 219 disciplinary actions.

Complaints of misconduct rose from 256 in 2011 to 563 in 2012, records show.

“Sandusky raised a lot of consciousness of those issues,” Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett said.

The upside to the awful Sandusky scandal? Maybe the next generation of Pennsylvania youngsters is better protected.

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  • Oh good gracious! The failure to report abuse was not the problem or cause of Sandusky crimes. Jerry Sandusky was reported to the authorities in 1998 and they did a shoddy investigation that took all of four days (though the official record says it went 37 days).

    The fact is that Sandusky was reported on May 4, 1998 and by May 8, 1998, the DPW investigation was essentially over. On May 13, 1998 the DPW informed PSU they would resolve the matter quickly, but then waited until June 1, 1998 to perform a pro forma interview of Sandusky and close the case.

    In 2001, two PSU officials have claimed to have made a report to the local children and youth services (DPW/OCYS) agency. The Commonwealth refutes their claims because it simply does not want to admit it got a second bite at the apple with Sandusky, but on that occasion, it didn’t lift a finger.

    Anyone who believes that improved reporting of child abuse cases will fix the problem is not being realistic. According to Protect PA Kids, 11,792 phone calls went UNANSWERED at DPW in 2010 (9%). Also, only 8 of 1,000 abuse reports result in a finding of abuse – that’s 5x less than the national average.

    Just like in the Sandusky case, you can call DPW to investigate a case, but it is highly unlikely they’ll indicate abuse. Finally, based on a 2008 HHS Report, children continued to be abused 43% of the time AFTER DPW was called.

    Phone calls and reports won’t fix the problem in Pennsylvania.