Campbell Brown: Teachers unions are resisting efforts to keep sex offenders out of classrooms
posted at 12:53 pm on January 21, 2014 by Guy Benson
Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown published an op/ed in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend taking powerful teachers unions to task over their attempts to water down bipartisan legislation aimed at keeping convicted sex criminals out of the teaching profession. Some background:
When a Michigan middle-school teacher was denied $10,000 in severance pay last month, the local teachers union filed a grievance against the school board on his behalf. Given the union’s mission to defend the rights of educators, this would appear to be routine. Not so fast: The teacher is a convicted sex offender. Neal Erickson was sentenced in July to a 15- to 30-year jail term after acknowledging that he had sexual relations with a male student beginning when the boy was 14 years old…The Erickson case isn’t unique. In August, a Maryland music teacher was arrested on child-pornography charges. Authorities subsequently discovered that his stash of 4,000 images included sexually suggestive photos and videos of 14 female students between kindergarten and second-grade ages. When the case became news, a woman who had been his student during the 1990s came forward and the teacher now faces additional charges of sex abuse and rape. One former colleague told reporters that she had twice reported his suspicious activity, including locking his classroom doors when he was alone with young girls. But nothing happened because “the administrators didn’t take it seriously enough,” she said…In 2010, the Government Accountability Office found “hundreds of potential cases of registered sex offenders working in schools” across the U.S. “Hundreds” is unacceptable. Even a small number of sex offenders can inflict damage far out of proportion to their numbers. The GAO cited studies in which 232 child molesters admitted to molesting 17,000 children.
In October, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives unanimously passed a piece of legislation introduced by a California Democrat that aims to close cracks in the bureaucratic system that sometimes allow convicted sex offenders to be hired in schools. Several influential unions — who often cite The Children to justify their political ends — weren’t happy with some of the law’s provisions:
Anyone with violent or sexual convictions against a child—whether a misdemeanor or felony—would be ineligible for school employment. Background checks would be more thorough, using expanded databases including the FBI’s fingerprint database, the national and state sex offender registries. And districts would be prohibited from knowingly unloading sex abusers on other schools—a practice known as “pass the trash.” These are sensible measures that are overdue. Yet the two most powerful teachers unions in the country have voiced objections to the bill. Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers complained about the bill before it passed the House. The NEA claimed in a letter to House members that background checks “often have a huge, racially disparate impact.” Randi Weingarten, the AFT chief, warned of inaccuracies in the FBI database and cautioned that teachers would be inconvenienced by potentially long screening delays.
Yes, NEA, please explain why barring sex criminals from working at schools is somehow racist. And by all means, Ms. Weingarten, complain away about how stronger anti-molester screening processes would potentially “inconvenience” some of your members. For her work on education reform, Brown is under attack from the usual suspects. Media Matters complains that the Journal didn’t disclose the fact that Brown’s husband is on the board of an “anti-teacher union” organization, while the Huffington Post casually speculates that she’s only engaged in these issues for the financial gain — and that the money is flowing from shadowy right-wing figures, of course:
Brown probably isn’t taking on the job of attacking unions for free, out of a spirit of doing good for the world by driving down people’s wages and benefits. It is more likely that Brown has tapped into the lucrative Republican-aligned corporate/billionaire-funded anti-union money fire hose. That would explain a lot.
The same piece accuses Brown of playing fast and loose with the facts, having failed to parrot the unions’ line that they were only interested in “strengthening” the bill. The author then dives into the conspiratorial fever swamp of Koch Derangement Syndrome, based on zero facts whatsoever. Because, you see, the only reasons anyone would ever oppose teachers unions is either an abiding hatred of teachers (especially their wages and benefits), or piles of secret Kochtopus cash. Or something.