SALT LAKE CITY — The state auditor's office says a number of local education agencies in Utah failed to report misconduct complaints made at schools over the past 10 years. The auditor's office also found that those educators who have been recently punished have received larger reprimands recently.
The report, released Wednesday, says the auditor's office looked at the personnel files for 19 percent of educators who worked for a school district or charter school between July 2013 to June 2018.
The audit found 28 cases of alleged misconduct known to school districts and charter schools that should have been reported to the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission, but only 17 were actually reported.
The UPPAC is responsible for investigating licensed educators who have been accused of misconduct, the report says.
"Because these cases were not reported, the (Utah Board of Education's) ability to manage and control educator licensure is diminished, and some educators have likely avoided (Utah Board of Education) imposed discipline," the report said.
Instances of the alleged misconduct include an educator viewing pornography on a district computer, and another disciplined a student by throwing a wrench at a student which hit the student in the head. More violent incidents mentioned in the report include an educator slapping a student in the face, unintentionally cutting a student with a boxcutter, and getting into a physical fight with a student.
Other incidents include educators sexually harassing female students by encouraging female students to dress a certain way for extra credit, and expressing the desire to watch two female students kiss in class, according to the report.
The audit mentions that only 19 percent of educator personnel files were analyzed, and said there is a "strong likelihood" that other cases have failed to reach the proper channels for investigation.
The report recommends that school districts and charter schools investigate previous cases and report the findings to the UPPAC. The auditor's office also called for random audits on school districts and charter schools around the state.
Another finding in the report suggested that the failure to communicate issues to the proper channels may have allowed further misconduct in subsequent teaching jobs.
Later, the report highlighted how reprimands for educators in recent years have been more substantial compared to punishments dealt out years before.
One example is a 2008 case where a teacher communicated with a student about sexual content, and the teacher was only given a two-year suspension. In a more recent case, a teacher that was calling and texting a student and meeting the student out of school was suspended from teaching for five years, according to the report.
Another conclusion of the report suggested that current state reporting systems make it difficult for school districts and charter schools to review past reprimands of educators from other districts and schools.
Weber and Davis counties are no strangers to alleged issues of reporting misconduct to higher ups.
The Ogden School District is currently facing two ongoing lawsuits alleging the district was aware of sexual abuse committed by Drew Tutt, a former teacher at Mound Fort Junior High School in 2014 and 2015 who was convicted of sexually abusing two students, and failed to remove him from the school. The district has denied the allegations brought forward in the suit.
The Davis School District faces similar legal issues. The district is still labeled as a defendant in the suit regarding Brianne Altice, a former English teacher at Davis High School who was convicted of having sexual relationships with students.