New research reveals that Texas school officials are failing to report educator misconduct as required by state law, and educators whose misconduct is reported are able to keep teaching, endangering students’ safety.
Government watchdog group Citizens Defending Freedom (CDF) released a comprehensive report “Are Your Children Safe in Texas Schools?” that evaluates misconduct reporting data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
The report reveals “inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and failures” with how school districts across the state handle allegations of teacher misconduct and how the allegations are addressed by TEA, the agency tasked with overseeing government education.
“The investigation underscores the urgent need for transparency, accountability, and the enforcement of reporting laws,” said CDF spokesman Dan Thomas.
CDF is a national nonprofit whose stated mission is to educate and engage citizens at the local level and place government—including public schools—back into the hands of the people.
Key findings of CDF’s report include:
– School district officials are failing to report all instances of educator misconduct, raising concerns about under-reported cases. In Texas, a school administrator’s failure to report misconduct is a state jail felony.
– Educators found to have engaged in an “improper relationship with a student or minor” or other sexual misconduct—which should result in the permanent revocation of their Texas teaching certificates—are receiving lesser sanctions from TEA and are able to keep teaching. The TEA website states that only educators whose teaching certificates are revoked by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) for abuse or inappropriate relationship with a student or minor are added to the state’s Do Not Hire Registry—a list of individuals who are not eligible for hire in Texas public schools based on misconduct or criminal history.
– Texas teachers undergo no statewide mandatory pre-hiring checks aside from a national criminal background check. CDF says state law does not require schools to check the Do Not Hire Registry or SBEC records to see if an applicant has a documented history of misconduct.
CDF’s report details a number of other weaknesses in the TEA-administered misconduct reporting system and suggests several solutions to “proactively protect school children throughout Texas.”
Another organization that has spent the past year and a half investigating public schools’ misconduct reporting and advocating for legislative solutions is Texas Education 911.
The education reform alliance was formed ahead of the 88th Legislative Session to advocate for parental rights, transparency, and accountability within the state’s troubled government school system.
In addition to recommendations outlined by CDF, Texas Education 911 is advocating for an inspector general’s office to provide independent oversight of the state’s public education system, including misconduct reporting, as well as institute appropriate remedies.
As proposed by TexasEd911, the inspector general would be appointed by and accountable to the elected members of the State Board of Education, not the TEA or office of the governor, who appoints the TEA commissioner.
Current Commissioner of Education Mike Morath was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015.
“TEA has outsized influence over just about everything because of its relationship to the governor,” said Aileen Blachowski, a Prosper mom and TexasEd911 volunteer.
Blachowski says an inspector general will “level the playing field and balance of power in public education,” which currently favors the taxpayer-funded government school bureaucracy over parents and students.
“As a parent in Prosper ISD, I was shocked and devastated by the lack of consequences for school employees’ actions in a case where children were sexually molested by their bus driver,” said Blachowski, referring to a sex abuse scandal and cover-up first exposed by media coverage of the victims’ lawsuit against the school district—months after district officials learned of the abuse.
As noted in the CDF report, there is no record of Superintendent Holly Ferguson or any other Prosper ISD official notifying TEA of the bus driver’s arrest for continuous sexual abuse of a child.
“The educator misconduct reporting system requires serious overhaul,” said Blachowski.
Blachowski told Texas Scorecard that TexasEd911 has worked extensively with lawmakers on legislative solutions, and they shared recommendations for administrative changes to improve educator misconduct documentation and reporting with Abbott’s office in November.
“But administrative changes alone will not be adequate,” she said. “Laws without enforcement are merely suggestions. We are focusing on legislation that provides systemic solutions for enforcement.”
Blachowski also noted that an inspector general’s job is to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.
“It’s not our job as taxpayers to prop up a failing system,” she said. “The state must be better stewards of taxpayers’ education money, and parents must take back some of their mission to steward their children.”
“We call on all legislators, SBOE members, and Gov. Abbott to support an education inspector general,” she added. “One more day and one more victim is simply not acceptable.”