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Post-Sandusky scandal, more Pa. teachers punished for misconduct of all types

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By Kari Andren and Kate Wilcox
Saturday, March 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

More teachers than ever are experiencing state-imposed discipline for offenses ranging from drunken driving to inappropriate contact with students.

In the past 10 years, disciplinary actions against teachers' certifications rose 229 percent from 65 to 214, while the number of working certified teachers and administrators increased only 25 percent from 118,059 to 148,518, according to the state Department of Education.

Those figures include Pennsylvania teachers and those disciplined for misconduct in other states who, as a result, lost teaching certificates here.

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.

In his mostly rural county alone, records show at least four teachers and one principal surrendered teaching certificates for allegations ranging from sexual harassment of teachers to inappropriate relationships with students since 2008.

Carolyn Angelo, executive director of the Professional Standards and Practices Commission, said the commission trains educators about reporting potential abuse, and communication has improved with the national clearinghouse that lists teachers with suspended or revoked certifications.

Pennsylvania took fewer disciplinary actions in 2012, compared with similarly sized states. Ohio, for example, had 185,000 certified teachers and took action against 311 licenses; Florida, with 189,930 teachers, disciplined 585.

“Things are getting slightly better (nationally),” said Charol Shakeshaft, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and expert on teacher sex abuse. “It's still pretty bad.”

Kari Andren is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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