Schools in Utah – Part of the Utah’s Vital Stats Series
In the advent of our yearly celebration of Jesus’ birth I find myself rushing to complete the Vital Stats Report on Utah. And as this happens every 24 months you’d think I’d get used to the results of my research, alas, that never occurs for me. Ha!
While I’ve streamlined the format of this project over the years the more information we have readily at our fingertips the more evidence and fruits of Utah Mormonism become clearer still and throws a wrench into my lame attempt at brevity.
Part of me still holds out that little girl hope things in Utah will be better than the previous year and yet I see how much broader the negative influence has permeated the very fiber of most everything in Utah. Thus, the length of the project seems to grow as I fight to compact it into one or two pages…sigh…and to prove my point as I was dotting the last “i” and crossing the final “t” a Google alert found its way into my inbox announcing that a charter school principle in Utah was arrested this week for the sexual abuse of several boys. http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/Ex-Utah-principal-arrested-in-child-sex-abuse-4090283.php
While the numbers for 2012 still aren’t tallied at the time of this writing (Dec 3, 2012) I felt it was worthwhile to publish my findings on the status of Utah’s schools.
I’m not here to be sensationalistic. There’s enough drama in this type of ministry without having to self manufacture more attention so understand me when I say I would give ANYTHING, at any time, to find a different result. However I have to wonder; for how long will we as a society continue to tolerate the inexcusable behavior of adults that is forced upon young people in America?
Now while the vast majority of Americans aren’t Christian I truly believe there’s enough moral fiber collectively left in us to stand up to the wrongs in this world and say enough is enough.
As you’ll see in my report for 2012 suicides and the rape rate climb steadily higher and have historically ranked above the national average for decades now. Utah still spends on average five times more for each prisoner every year than they do on each kid in public schools. That is alarming! In addition to that, Utah also has another notorious claim to fame. They have the highest percentage of prisoners who are incarcerated for sex crimes than anyone else in the nation. Coincidence? Yeah, I don’t think so.
School Problems in Utah
Most teachers are born with a personality wanting truth to be known and achieve this in a public forum via the classroom.
Truth isn’t as elusive as you might think, in fact it’s hiding in plain sight and ready to shine forth all on its own. All we have to do is stand up! Reading reports of serious infractions or hearing about shortcomings financial and otherwise can serve as our bugle call to action. That’s what I’ve done here with my discoveries in the status of school problems in Utah.
As with the rest of the country, Utah’s still trying to recuperate from the recession and finds itself trying to play catch up with any ground lost fiscally and otherwise.
However, in the interim the LDS Church’s martyr syndrome is found in the leadership of their schools. While they like to moan about the fact they sit at the very last place in America per pupil spending they also try to candy-coat reality by saying they’re in the top ten for graduation rates. This isn’t true.
The truth is that Utah is in 51st place per pupil expenditure and their grades aren’t all that great. As a matter of fact Utah’s math, science and reading skills aren’t anything to write home to mom about and should stand out like a sore thumb to the residents who also have the highest birth rate in the country; more on that in the final report. They also have a higher than national average for class size. Compare the national rate of 15.5 students per teacher to Utah’s 22.3 students per teacher rate over the past decade. http://www.schools.utah.gov/data/Fingertip-Facts.aspx
Overall something’s gotta give; either the birth rate or financially providing funding for the schools, hiring better teachers and/or coming up with better curriculum.
In the latest report available (2011) the board of education says Utah’s graduation rate is above the national average at 76% but a closer look tells a sad story. The graduation rate for African Americans and Hispanics barely reached 61% and it only gets worse for American Indians who sit at a dismal rate of 57%. With a new system of how the feds count rates for graduation, students per school, etc the new system has been used for this report. http://www.schools.utah.gov/data/Educational-Data/Graduation-Dropout-Rates/FinalCohortGrad2011b.aspx
The watchdog group Utah Foundation, recently published findings of Utah’s scholastic status stating the difficulty in trying to compare Utah with other states to obtain where Utah ranks nationally. They reported that while Utah’s claim of high ratings in scholastic s has been above other states in various arenas this doesn’t hold true as of late.
They noted a couple of problems with trying to rank Utah w/ other states and the first thing they pointed out is worthy of attention.
Utah is primarily white, has a very low poverty rate and has a relatively strong proportion of college-educated parents. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, it is what it is. When you try to lump all states into a category of who did what in a given year, the totals may not be the best comparisons.
They cited that when you compare education stats with their economic peers across the nation, Utah’s not doing as well as you might think. The comparisons show Utah ranking at or near the bottom of academic achievements. http://www.utahfoundation.org/img/pdfs/2012_priority_brief_2_k-12.pdf
It also makes a huge difference when Utah uses the same counting method of what constitutes a graduation rate. Utah ranked near the middle of other states (32nd) for overall graduation rates and came in close to the bottom of the pack amongst all other states for graduation rates of minorities – 4th from last with only Minnesota, Nevada and DC ranking below them. http://www.schools.utah.gov/data/Educational-Data/Graduation-Dropout-Rates/FinalCohortGrad2011b.aspx
Several years ago the AP did a piece on schools across the nation. The reporter found that having access to this public institution was like pulling teeth and ended up having to go to court just to investigate the status of teachers. One of the subjects he wanted info for was cause of termination. That seems like a reasonable request doesn’t it? After all, we pay their salaries and they’re watching over our kids…this poor guy ended up fighting a battle he had no idea existed.
Thankfully common sense prevailed, access was granted to the public files and he discovered some astonishing facts.
He found that 25% of terminated teachers nationwide lost their license because of a sexual offense.
Not so in Utah. More than 52% of teachers who were either suspended or received a revocation had been terminated for a sexual offense.
While I reported on this briefly in my 2010 Utah Vital Stat Report I thought it might be beneficial to see how, or if, the numbers had changed over the years. His study was done for the timeframe of 2000-2005.
I focused on 2006-2012 and my findings left me with a sick feeling I couldn’t shake, thus my article here.
Utah’s Board of Education will send UPPAC (Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission) a handful of cases to review each month for any license they haven’t taken action against either on a local or state level, thus the cases UPPAC reviews is only a small fraction of what goes on collectively.
Every month UPPAC meets to discuss events and goals of Utah’s schools. The committee is made up of nine educators and two community members who collectively serve as an ethics committee for the Utah Board of Education.
Included in their monthly reports are their recommendation for any actions they feel the board should take against a licensed educator and this is where I’ve retrieved my info for this section of my article.
The percentage of teachers who were either suspended or received a revocation of their license for sexual offenses was quite staggering. And that’s an understatement when you look at the end numbers.
While no one likes to see one of their teachers in trouble, it’s another thing all together to see things like this. If a teacher was going to be in trouble one would think it might be from drugs/alcohol or maybe a retail theft somewhere.
I’ve discovered when a teacher in Utah has their license revoked or suspended the majority of the time it’s because of a sexual offense. In fact one of the newsletters shared a story of when the UDOE hired an attorney in September 2012. They told the attorney she’d find a few cases of teachers having porn on their school computers. Here’s the rest of what the newsletter said in that paragraph:
“The other day she [the investigator] jokingly complained that there’s nothing “few” about the number of pornography cases she has reviewed in the last few months. Sadly, educators’ decisions to view pornographic materials on school computers are a problem. We are confident that these cases represent a very small percentage of total educators, and is not way of the profession as a whole. But even a “few” is a few too many.”
[Note: The grammatical error in the paragraph above is from the Utah Department of Education – not me]
Allow me to preface my findings by echoing the words from one of the UPPAC newsletters. Two-tenths of one percent of all teachers in Utah gets themselves into trouble. By and large the vast majority are upstanding citizens in society. Utah currently employs 26,000 people through the education system. And while they say only two-tenths of one percent gets into trouble it makes me wonder how many aren’t caught.
Stats are from UPPAC only and represent January 2006 to October 2012.
More than two-thirds (68%) of terminated teachers were fired because of sexual offenses. The nation’s average still sits at a distant 24%. Why is there such a marked difference? And why was the percentage of sexual misconducts up by 16%? What is going on?
The list of teacher misconduct in Utah from 2006-2009 reveals 212 violations were recorded and of those 90 were for sexual misconduct and/or moral and ethical reasons. During that same timeframe (2006-2009) 60 licenses were suspended and/or revoked. http://www.schools.utah.gov/main/DOCS/Professional-Conduct-Report.aspx
I also looked at teachers who had their licenses reinstated from January 2006 to October 2012. I wanted to know what percentage was reinstated after a suspension or revocation for a sexual offense. Here’s what I found (these numbers are only from UPPAC, not the entire school system in Utah which wasn’t available at time of this writing so these numbers serve as an example of the real problem):
As you can see 23% of reinstatements included those who had originally been suspended or revoked because of a sexual offense.
I’m wondering why any teacher who was initially let go for a sexual offense was able to get their job back? The Utah Board of Education has explicitly stated that no one will retain their job after being convicted of a sexual offense and that’s good. So why are people being reinstated after a suspension or revocation for things like porn on school computers, sex solicitation or child abuse?
And why aren’t all the listings complete? Why didn’t they specify the reason a teacher’s license had been suspended or revoked? Could it be they had originally been suspended or revoked for a sexual offense? If so, that brings the percentages of those who had been reinstated for a sexual offense up to 68%.
Many reports are written and presented about the school systems in America. Some are an absolute waste of time and money while others provide valuable insight for those in education. One report I found telling was given by the GAO (Government Accounting Office).
In 2010 an investigation discovered that there are no federal laws against hiring and retaining sex offenders in the public schools. http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/2011report/2011-apr-appendix-b1.pdf
While all 50 states have their own laws regarding this issue, they vary widely on how offenders are reported or sometimes even reinstated after a suspension or revocation of their license.
As such it’s a mishmash of who allows what in that particular state. Utah, DC and thirteen other states are the only states that don’t have mandatory employment termination and/or license revocation laws for specific offenses which include sexual misconduct.
Interestingly enough some states prohibit sex offenders from being on school campuses, but have no law against hiring or reinstating sex offenders. Utah is just one example of the contradictory mandates for school employment. http://www.gao.gov/assets/320/313255.html
A report from a lengthy investigation by the Office of the Legislative Auditor General stands out as the beacon of what’s wrong in Utah when they found some very disturbing facts. http://www.le.utah.gov/audit/09_08rpt.pdf
Here in part is what they said;
“In our opinion, the current system for detecting and identifying the criminal histories of individuals employed in public schools is flawed and ineffective.
Our primary concern, as is the major concern of public education
officials, is the safety of the children in public schools. The fact that, in
spite of our small sample of 32 schools in 4 school districts, we found
17 current education employees (both licensed educators and
classified/nonlicensed employees) with concerning criminal
convictions who have access to children, magnifies the issues presented
in this report.”
Here are just a few examples of what they’ve found:
In 2008, one educator’s license was suspended for a felony
DUI. Prior to the 2008 conviction, the educator was also
convicted of two prior DUIs in 2004 and 2005, and failure to
stop at the command of police in 2005. The 2005 convictions
of DUI and failure to stop at the command of police occurred
while the educator was a chaperon at an after-hours school
event. The educator left during the course of the event and had
no children in the vehicle. The educator was driving under the
influence of alcohol and, when pulled over by the police, the
educator got out of the vehicle and attempted to flee.
In 2008, one educator’s license was revoked for abusing
prescription drugs and creating an unsafe learning environment
because of the drug abuse, but this educator was also convicted
on federal charges of bank fraud in 1997 and 1998.
In our review, we found that UPPAC
recently approved two individuals for licensure that raise potential
One person was recently approved for licensure who was
convicted in 2007 of a third-degree felony, child abuse/neglect.
Even though this conviction was later expunged in 2008, there
are still concerns because this person was convicted of a crime
that involved violence and a child. There is no clear rule
regarding how felony child abuse should be handled by
Another person, recently approved for licensure, was convicted
of writing prescriptions illegally, and is seeking licensure six
years after this felony charge and one year after a theft
conviction. Again, no clear rule regarding licensure exists that
can be applied to these convictions.
Their findings should make the hair on every parent’s neck stand up and give pause to what’s going on inside the school system.
The Auditor General took a small sampling of teachers (1,209) and ran background checks. Brace yourself for the bad news.
They identified 17 current employees in the 32 schools they sampled with criminal convictions. Eleven had convictions prior to being hired and eight after being hired. Even worse is how two had criminal convictions both before and after hiring. Out of the 1,209 employees, 49 have criminal histories. This is 4.1% in the 32 schools. It makes you wonder what the whole story is and shows that it’s much higher than the two-tenths of one percent the schools are claiming. The report proves that school districts have retained employees with criminal convictions after being hired. This is unbelievable and totally unacceptable.
The eleven employees with criminal backgrounds were convicted of felony sex assault, indecent exposure, aggravated assault with a baseball bat, credit card fraud, felony forgery, theft, retail theft, felony burglary, grand larceny, drugs, loaded weapons in vehicles, cultivating controlled substances and financial transaction card offenses.
The last one listed may have had access to financial records of the school. One school employee actually had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court on another charge.
Utah has stated they need to adopt new laws with detailed rules of do’s and don’ts but have yet to decide what those particulars should be.
Here’s a hint…if you are convicted of any sex crime you’re out for good. That should be for porn on school computers to raping a student or anyone for that matter. If you’re convicted of a drug offense or drinking and driving or showing up to work drunk – you’re out.
Armed robbery, burglary, pot farms, stalking, lewdness, violent offenses, convictions of domestic abuse, murder, larceny, theft…you’re out. Two states that Utah would like to model themselves after have an absolute zero tolerance policy for the offenses I’ve just mentioned and I have to wonder why the Beehive State isn’t buzzing around enacting these policies yesterday? All the offenses listed here but murder are just some of the offenses committed by employees listed in my research.
The legislature also discovered that anyone hired before 1994 had never been subject to a full background check and still haven’t. The UDOE said they don’t want it to be a financial burden to teachers or to the school system to run checks. Yet they’re willing for the effects of a criminal’s behavior to be a burden to the victim?
Sign me up; I’ll be the first to pony up the 25 bucks it costs to run a background check per employee. If you ask the parents of a child who was a victim to some icky person don’t you think they’d “splurge” for the $25? I can’t imagine they wouldn’t think it was necessary. And if someone doesn’t want to spend a couple of dollars to ensure everyone’s safety I wonder what they have to hide.
And finally if all that wasn’t bad enough, one of the major hurdles the school system faces is the union. According to a report by the US Undersecretary of Education the union has a major impact on teacher’s contracts. http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/misconductreview/report.pdf
The stipulations some unions try to pass off border on the stupid side (my opinion). The secretary noted unions have tried to implement clauses exempting teachers from background checks. Some teacher labor unions believe they’re an invasion of privacy or if they’re already employed by the district then everything should be cool.
My solution for that?
If you don’t like it, don’t apply.
If we can’t stand up for those who don’t have a voice then who will? They deserve a good education and freedom from being assaulted while doing so. Their comment reminds me of something I heard from a kindergarten teacher years ago while she gave a presentation to parents on the “Welcome to School Night”. She stated that after 20+ years of teaching she’s decided she doesn’t like teaching scholastics or academics and she wasn’t real fond of boys.
Her words still make me wonder why she had bothered driving to the school to begin with, let alone going to the trouble of being a teacher. I wanted to tell her what I would tell the examples above: it’s time you looked for a different vocation. The kids deserve better.