This guest post was written by public school teacher Ellis Reyes, whom I thank for stating the problem from a teacher's point of view.
Apparently basic rights also include protecting predatory teachers from having their criminal behaviors disclosed to the public. In yesterday's decision, Justice Fairhurst voted to conceal the names of teachers accused of molesting children unless they were found guilty of sexual misconduct or some form of disciplinary action was taken. While I am acutely sensitive to the possibility of false accusations against teachers, I find Justice Fairhurst's decision faulty on several counts.
First of all, if a teacher is accused of such behavior, he or she is placed immediately on administrative leave. When that occurs, everyone in the community knows that something is going on and the rumor mill kicks into high gear. The teacher is then and forever persona non grata in that district and to assume otherwise is just naive.
Second, in the world of tenured employment and tight district budgets, isn't it simply easier for a district to ask a teacher to leave quietly than to embark upon an investigation that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and turn up nothing? What then? The teacher gets a job in a neighboring district and continues his/her repulsive behavior until the process repeats itself; for thirty years. No sexual misconduct was ever proven and no formal disciplinary action taken so this predator is able to fly beneath the radar for an entire career. As the parent of two young children, this bothers me a great deal.
Finally, as public employees, and particularly as employees placed in positions in which we work directly with children, I believe that the greater good is served by aggressively protecting the children. As a direct extension, teachers' workplace behavior should be a matter of public record. I don't even think it's negotiable. These types of issues should not be investigated behind the scenes. They should be as transparent as possible. If someone is accused, the public should know. If they are vindicated, then the public should know, along with the circumstances surrounding the investigation. If someone was not able to be prosecuted due to a lack of evidence, that is significantly different than someone who is actually innocent and was investigated because a student lied.
Do teachers and other public employees have privacy rights? Absolutely. But do we have a greater obligation to protect students from predators with teaching certificates? I think so.