A confidential, nationwide list of 24,500 teachers who have been punished for a wide array of offenses was made available to the public Friday by a Florida newspaper.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune created a searchable database of the teachers' names after waiting for years to gain access to the list. The paper began seeking the material as part of its earlier reporting on teacher sexual misconduct in Florida. It obtained the list from the Florida Department of Education.
The list, gathered and maintained by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, does not provide any information on why any of the teachers were disciplined. Sexual misconduct, financial misconduct, criminal convictions and other misbehavior all can bring disciplinary actions against teacher licenses.
A nationwide Associated Press investigation earlier this year sought five years of state disciplinary actions against teachers and the reasons behind them. In the years the AP studied, 2001 to 2005, roughly one-quarter of all disciplinary actions against teachers involved sexual misconduct.
The AP's seven-month investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned following allegations of sexual misconduct.
The association's list is the only nationwide effort by school systems to track teachers who get into trouble, but the association does not make the information available to the public. The group is a voluntary, nonprofit organization of state education agencies.
The database is made available to other state education agencies to provide a warning to states about teachers with past problems. NASDTEC has no ability to force education officials to list all the teachers who have gotten in trouble in their states. The list also does not provide details on what teachers got in trouble for, and leaves it to states or hiring school districts to dig for more information.
Roy Einreinhofer, NASDTEC's executive director, said the agreement with states that allows for the collection of the names of disciplined teachers is based on a promise that the list will be kept confidential. He opposed the newspaper's decision to publish the names.
"We've heard from some states that this violates their state law," he said. "It could very well cause the end of it. That's why we're so vitally concerned about it."
The list made available to the newspaper was incomplete, Einreinhofer said. The complete database includes roughly 37,000 names. About 4,000 Florida teachers were not included because of the way the state agency saves the data, the newspaper said. Einreinhofer said he couldn't explain why the other 8,500 were missing.
The list goes back 20 years and states could have included disciplinary actions dating farther back.
Robert Shoop, a Kansas State University professor who has studied teacher sexual misconduct and has called for tougher oversight and more openness by administrators, said a current list of problem teachers should be gathered by each state and made public to better protect students.
"Clearly the public does have a right to know and they should have access," he said.
The newspaper's Web site allows readers to type in a name and state to determine whether a person is in the database. The list provides no other information than a date of birth to confirm an identity.