By Zack Mazrimas, EduMom contributor
Even with a master’s degree in education from a major Massachusetts teaching college, I’ve been shocked by what I’ve witnessed as a parent when it comes to our district education system and my own children.
I mean, I know this stuff — so you’d think all this stuff would be a walk in the park for a guy like me. Yet, every single day I find myself frustrated, bewildered — and at times horrified. Everything from experiencing parent-teacher conferences restricted to 10 minute slots (complete with four questions I was “allowed” to discuss) to being given 12 hours notice about critical events happening in the school — it’s certainly been an experience that has destroyed my rose-colored glasses around what to expect.
Now, I’m also fairly new to education politics, but it’s clear that the Massachusetts Teachers Association has a loud voice and elected officials allow them to set the tune that the rest of us are forced to dance to. As parents, we’re not really even considered. And it’s clear that the MTA (who says they speak for all educators) mostly wants us talking about:
Hating charter schools and talking a lot about how they are “robbing public funds earmarked for our kids’ education.” (I’m not really sure how that works — because it seems like the money still goes to educate children, just children in public charter schools.)
Hating “accountability” and any kind of testing. (I think we’re just supposed to guess that our kids are doing ok and hope for the best once they make it out of high school? Seems like we should check to see if the system is working and kids are learning.)
Asking the taxpayers to “Fund Our Future.” (Which seems to mostly about funding the future of the Massachusetts Teachers Association through a “human resources” bill dressed up like an “education” bill.)
What I’m not hearing about is what they’re doing to actually improve the quality of education in the Massachusetts public schools. Or even keeping them safe.
Imagine my surprise as a parent to find an investigative report — done by WWLP in Springfield more than a week ago — about how the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has investigated 774 public school teachers over the five past years for everything from inappropriate relationships with students to purchasing liquor for minors, and, of course, pornography.
Are you kidding me?
Where is the outrage from elected officials? From the MTA?
According to the WWLP report, the Department of Secondary Education (DESE) is currently investigating 380 teachers across the state, and 80 of those are being investigated for “boundary issues.”
What are “boundary issues” exactly?
A nice way to say having sex with students or a minor, touching students or a minor, and other related issues, including showing them PORN.
Here are just a few of the incidents reported by WWLP:
- A teacher at Amherst Regional High School was fired in 2014 for reportedly having an inappropriate relationship with a student. His licenses was revoked in February 2016.
- A teacher from Springfield reportedly stole money from Putnam Vocational High School in 2011 and was convicted of larceny in 2015. His license was revoked.
- A teacher was arrested in Berkshire County in 2013 for allegedly buying alcohol for minors and touching a minor in a sexually aggressive manner. The months after his arrest, he started working at Commerce High School in Springfield.
Now keep in mind, this report is focusing on Western Mass news station. It’s not a true look at the entire situation statewide.
But it’s clear: hundreds of Massachusetts teachers have lost their licenses over similar behavior.
And why as parents aren’t we storming city halls and fearing for our children’s safety?!!
Because we don’t know. We’re not “allowed” to.
We are intentionally kept from this information because according to the report — the rights of teachers apparently outweigh our rights as parents to protect our children.
774 public school teachers investigated over the past 5 years!
How is it possible that we’ve created a system that completely shuts out the voices and concerns of the largest and most important stakeholders — children and parents?
And why don’t you think it’s relevant to tell parents of minor children when a teacher is being investigated or their license if being revoked?
Current laws restrict “personally identifiable information on students” from being shared publicly. That I can understand, but I also need to know when MY CHILD has been or could be harmed.
Even Florida has figured out a better way to get parents the information they need to know:
Yes, the details are heartbreaking — but the page provides transparency for parents — critical information that we need to know.
Jeff Wulfson, the Deputy Commissioner of DESE told WWLP, “If a teacher is arrested at any time, they’re required to actually notify us because we’re their licensing authority. Are there occasions where teachers don’t do that? Absolutely. It’s not foolproof, but as soon as we find out about it, we’ll certainly take action.”
It needs to be foolproof. As a parent, I need my boys’ safety to be foolproof.
The public should know when a teacher has been terminated and why, and, if that teacher is currently employed, we should be made aware of his/her history. Period.
It might also be time to start educating parents around what an appropriate student/teacher relationship looks like.
(I certainly don’t remember giving my students my personal cell phone number so we could text after school.)
When I drop off my boys to school each day, and I worry about whether they’re learning, making friends, eating the incredible turkey sandwich that I made them for lunch — but now it’s clear there is alot more I should be worried about.
And when we asked education experts why this wasn’t a bigger issue?
“Well, it’s only a couple hundred.”
“What do you want them to do?”
“What do you want us to do?”
Making it clear that we, as parents, need to let “education experts” know what our expectations are around this. They need direction.
And while it’s always adorable to listen to the righteous indignation of the Massachusetts Teachers Association about fighting for “students and families” — their silence on this issue and this report has been deafening.