DAYTON, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Education recorded a 69 percent increase in referrals for possible teacher misconduct during the past seven years, according to a newspaper analysis of agency statistics.
The analysis by the Dayton Daily News showed that the referrals to the education department’s Office of Professional Conduct increased from 4,770 in 2005 to 8,068 last year. However, last year’s figure was a 5.7 percent decrease from 2011. It’s only the second time the state has seen a decline in the referrals since 2005.
Referrals are made for behaviors ranging from conduct unbecoming to more serious violent and drug offenses.
Steady increases in referrals can be attributed to several factors, including changes to state law in the past decade that have allowed for greater accountability and tracking of state-licensed educators, said Lori Kelly, director of the ODE’s Office of Professional Conduct.
She said the creation of an applicant fingerprint database in 2008 by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and a change in state law requiring background checks every five years have helped lead to a higher rate of referrals.
The state’s Licensure Code of Professional Conduct, adopted in 2008, serves as the foundation for decisions on licensure, and is a guide for conduct with professional implications, according to the education department.
Kelly said state law also outlines about 80 criminal offenses that require the automatic revocation of a license, including murder, reckless homicide, bribery and compelling prostitution.
Cases investigated by the Office of Professional Conduct represent only about 0.5 percent of the 185,000 licensed educators in Ohio. There were 959 referrals investigated by the education department in 2012, down from the 2011 figure of 983, which was the highest number since 2005.
After an allegation of misconduct is investigated, the state Board of Education can take no action or take steps ranging from a letter of admonishment to revocation of a teaching license.
“The system works,” said Tom Henderson, superintendent of the Centerville school district in the Dayton area. “It’s all about doing the right thing and being safe with our kids. But when (disciplinary actions) come up, it’s always disappointing and disheartening.”