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News Analysis: October 22, 2007

posted on October 22, 2007 at 1:01 PM

On the edge of the news are some findings that are disturbing. The "Associated Press's" David Pitt is with us to explain.

Welcome, Dave. It's good to have you with us.

Pitt: Thank you, David.

Yepsen: Your organization has moved on the news wire a series of reports of inappropriate contact between teachers and students and how it's more common in the U.S. than most of us would like to think. Tell us about it.

Pitt: Well, this is a product of a multistate investigation and investigative journalism piece that we started in March. And reporters in all 50 states and Washington have been looking at disciplinary action against teachers, just to take a look at the landscape and see what's out there. And we did find a larger-than-expected number of cases of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving students. Nationwide we uncovered about more than 2,500 cases over a five-year period between 2001 and 2005, and that's about a quarter of all misconduct cases we found against teachers. Student victims in about 1,400 of those cases. So we're seeing a larger-than-expected number of cases. In Iowa there were about 61 actions of disciplinary actions taken against teachers in the state in that time period, and about half of those involved sexual misconduct. And that could range from pornography being shared with a student over computers, communication, you know, e-mails that might be inappropriate, all the way up to a sexual incident with a minor, with a student.

Yepsen: Any idea how Iowa compares to other states maybe as a percentage? Are our teachers more abusive than those in other states or less abusive? Is there any way to tell that?

Pitt: I don't think you could say that. I think that the numbers seem to reflect the size of the state. California, Texas, some of the larger states with a lot more teachers obviously had more cases, so it seems to be more of a, you know, population based thing. I don't think Iowa turned out to be any worse or any better than any other state. It appears that, you know, there are three million teachers in the united states, and obviously you want to point out that this is, compared to that total number, smaller -- you know, a relatively small number of teachers. And we want to point out that most teachers obviously are dedicated to their profession. And it's just -- I think it's one of those things that brought out significant numbers, and we just want people to know about it and parents to be aware of it and students to be aware of it.

Yepsen: Is this a growing problem or is it just better reporting? I mean kids -- there seems to me to be a lot more openness about it, what's appropriate, what's not appropriate. Children are taught, you know, here's what's appropriate touching and what isn't. So are we seeing a problem growing, or is it just better reporting?

Pitt: I think the numbers probably are revealed just by better reporting, and this is the first time in the organization, that we know of, has taken the time to look and do freedom of information requests and dig into documents to actually look to see how many teachers were involved in this kind of activity. We did find cases that go back many years. And we also found, you know, it is something that just has kind of been under the surface and hasn't been publicly talked about a lot.

Yepsen: We've only got thirty seconds left. There's another story in the news today, CIETC. What happened to the CIETC scandal?

Pitt: Well, Archie Brooks, who was the former chairman of the organization, the job training organization, and the former City Councilman, pleaded guilty to two counts in federal court today as part of a plea arrangement with federal prosecutors, and he also agreed to work with them in the prosecution of other people involved in that case.

Tags: Iowa news