Green Room

Campbell Brown: Teachers unions are resisting efforts to keep sex offenders out of classrooms

posted at 12:53 pm on January 21, 2014 by

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.

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When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

That notorious quote was from Albert Shanker, President of the Teachers Union (United Federation of Teachers) from 1964 to 1984 as well as President of the Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers) from 1974 to 1997.

Sums it up.

iurockhead on January 21, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Randi Weingarten, the AFT chief, warned of inaccuracies in the FBI database and cautioned that teachers would be inconvenienced by potentially long screening delays.

Dems on Keystone XL Pipeline: We need to take our sweet ole’ time to make sure that we do this thing right. For the children.

blammm on January 21, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Old annoying bumper sticker: “It will be a great day when public schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

New appropriate bumper sticker: “Your children are belong to us. –NEA” [sic/sick/sad]

King B on January 21, 2014 at 1:37 PM

The teaching gig has always been an attraction for sex perverts (female and male)

It’s a ready made cozy secure ‘perch’ for observing and then preying upon naive, innocent, young eager-to-please tots, children, and adolescents..

Of course teachers unions are upset…probably many union members fear losing their jobs

BigSven on January 21, 2014 at 1:51 PM

When they say “it’s for the children” they’re talking about perks of employment.

malclave on January 21, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Teachers’ unions associated with NEA are left-statist, period. They need sex offenders in the classroom because not letting them in is a bourgeois, reactionary, “classist” position, and they seek to destroy anything like that in their quest for The Radiant Future Utopia Run By Really Smart People Like Themselves.

Where, I assure you, their own children will be enrolled in “elite’-only” private schools with rigorous background checks for everyone down to the custodial staff.

Because after all, they just deserve it so much more than anyone else.

clear ether

eon

eon on January 21, 2014 at 3:33 PM

This sounds to me like the Media Matters and Huff Post writers may have a stake in child molester “rights,” and perhaps should have their backgrounds privately investigated. But maybe that’s not fair. Perhaps they just like standing up for people with stellar character like child molesters, or maybe Media Matters and Huff Post directed the writers to stand up for child molesters as an official policy choice of their respective publications. If so, you have to admit that the editors of those publications are folks that we all can look up to as roll models of journalistic integrity.

stefano1 on January 21, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Oh! But look at the how the Catholic priests are sodomizing boys! Squirrel!

HiJack on January 21, 2014 at 7:46 PM

…they want ‘to do’ the children!

KOOLAID2 on January 21, 2014 at 8:29 PM

This sounds to me like the Media Matters and Huff Post writers may have a stake in child molester “rights,” and perhaps should have their backgrounds privately investigated. But maybe that’s not fair. Perhaps they just like standing up for people with stellar character like child molesters, or maybe Media Matters and Huff Post directed the writers to stand up for child molesters as an official policy choice of their respective publications. If so, you have to admit that the editors of those publications are folks that we all can look up to as roll models of journalistic integrity.

stefano1 on January 21, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Besides, Richard Dawkins said there wasn’t anything wrong with some pedophilia.

Ward Cleaver on January 22, 2014 at 3:42 PM