SHELBY CO., Tenn. - Local school officials may not be making the grade when it comes to knowing laws governing schools.
FOX13 began investigating after uncovering Shelby County Schools delayed reporting sexual misconduct allegations against a teacher to the state of Tennessee.
We learned there is a major disconnect between SCS and Tennessee State Board of Education policies. An SCS official gave incorrect information regarding state rules and policies while recording on camera.
SCS said they became aware of a former teacher’s sexual misconduct allegations back in March of 2018.
Per state policy, the district needed to submit a Director’s Report detailing their knowledge within 30 days – but FOX13 found the report wasn’t submitted until January 16, 2019.
District officials initially provided a statement that included false information responding to why the report was delayed. That statement, which was provided Friday, is below:
“At the time the incident was reported, the individual was placed on administrative leave, and SCS followed all required reporting processes and procedures. Upon receipt of notification of changes in state law, we reviewed our processes to ensure we adhere to all laws and regulations.”
Officials told FOX13 initially that they were “required to notify when convictions were happening” at the time the incident happened. “So once the person was convicted, that’s when we had to notify the board or the state.”
However, when FOX13 reached out to the state board of education, they contradicted those previous statements.
“There has always been a requirement to report not only felony convictions, but general misconduct that if substantiated would warrant licensure action under board rules,” the board said.
SCS officials said the law changed around July 1, 2018 that required them to notify the state in those instances.
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Although, BOE officials said the law changed, “but not with respect to the Directors of Schools requirement to report.”
Just for clarification, FOX13 asked the state if there was ever a point in 2018 where it would have been okay for a school district to not inform the State Board of Education of a teacher’s alleged sexual misconduct with a student.
Their answer was no.
Below is a statement issued by SCS officials in response to this story:
“Shortly after the story broke last week involving the identified teacher, SCS administration commenced a preliminary review of the teacher licensure reporting requirements known to the District as has having been in place at the time of the incident. Based on the outcome of the preliminary review, it is presently the District’s position that it followed the reporting requirements that were believed by SCS at the time of the incident to be applicable, which included reporting convictions of certain offenses. Therefore, SCS acted in good faith to follow the reporting rules it believed applied at the time of the incident.
Parents should rest assured that the District aims to follow, and is deeply committed to following, all state laws and rules known to it that seek to ensure the safety of its students. With respect to this particular matter and in its efforts to ensure student safety, the District fully cooperated with local law enforcement during its own investigation. Currently, the District is reviewing the teacher licensure reporting mandates it believes were required during the time period at issue, and will determine if any additional measures or corrective actions should be taken internally regarding its teacher licensure reporting mechanisms. Any gaps in the District’s reporting mechanisms will be addressed promptly and appropriately, in line with the District’s commitment to improving upon its efforts to ensure student safety.”
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