Since the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University, there has been a greater focus on teacher discipline -- from the media and from state school officials.
Now, the Pocono Record has taken unwieldy state reports on teacher misconduct and categorized them by the types of disciplinary actions the state took. It lists the teachers and actions taken against them from 2004 to mid-November 2013.
More than half of the teachers in the state who were disciplined, the Record reported, were found to have engaged in some type of sexual contact or sexual misbehavior.
From the Record’s story:
A teacher throws a party for her students, providing them with alcohol and drugs.
A gym teacher videotapes girls changing in the locker room on a concealed camera and keeps a collection of the tapes in his home.
A teacher texts one of his female students, imploring her to complete a "threesome" with him and his wife.
Salacious TV plots? No, real-life accounts pulled from reports collected by the state Department of Education, which maintains an online, public database on every educator certified to teach in Pennsylvania who has faced disciplinary action.
Following an outbreak of charges against teachers in the northwestern part of the state, the Record decided to do something.
“We created our own searchable, interactive database based on state records.” said Christopher Mele, executive editor of the paper. “From that, we were able to analyze patterns, post the database online and call attention to the failings in the current system for taking enforcement actions against teachers.”
In June of 2012, Public Source’s Bill Heltzel wrote about a Pennsylvania teacher who was not disciplined by state officials. That was O’Hara resident David Scott Zimmerman, a teacher and coach who had been fired after being charged with corruption of minors and simple assault. Zimmerman later formed foundations in Missouri and Florida to work with young people.
A year after the story was published, the state Department of Education began an investigation into whether to take Zimmerman’s teaching license away. That was 14 years after the initial event that got him fired.
According to the state teacher license database, a David S. Zimmerman still has a license. However, there is no way to confirm whether that is the same David Zimmerman PublicSource wrote about.
Sharon Walsh is the editor of PublicSource.