More than 60 educators were disciplined or dismissed during a five-year period in Massachusetts for ethical or criminal offenses, including more than a third who were accused of sexual misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to child rape, according to a review of records by the Associated Press.
Many of the sexual misconduct cases made headlines, such as the teacher who sent naked photos to a student.
But other cases were prosecuted with little fanfare, or schools chose not to disclose information about the cases. A North Middlesex teacher, for example, was caught nearly naked with a student, but school officials did not release those details to protect her privacy.
Between 2001 and 2005, the state suspended, revoked, denied, or imposed various limits on the teaching licenses of 63 educators, according to records. At least 24 of the educators were accused of sexual misconduct. The total is a tiny percentage of the state's 70,000 licensed educators.
The figures for Massachusetts were gathered as part of a seven-month investigation in which reporters sought records in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Across the country, sexual misconduct allegations led states to take action against the licenses of 2,570 educators from 2001 through 2005. That figure includes licenses that were revoked, denied, or surrendered.
In Massachusetts, accusations of teacher sexual misconduct are handled individually, not using a set policy, said Heidi Guarino, Department of Education spokeswoman. The worst misconduct is often made public because it ends up in court.
Amber Jennings, a former teacher at Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley, was sentenced to probation in 2005 after admitting she gave naked pictures of herself to a teenager. Michelle Amundsen was sentenced in 2004 to three to five years in prison after pleading guilty to raping a 12-year-old from her homeroom at a Chelmsford middle school. She was released on parole last month.
But some districts chose not to disclose teacher offenses.
Jennifer Dietz, a teacher in the North Middlesex district in Townsend, resigned in 2002 after police caught her in a minivan with a 15-year-old special education student and a bottle of peppermint schnapps.
Dietz was later convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for providing alcohol. The case became public two years later only after the Department of Education began investigating why her teaching license had not been revoked. James McCormick, who was then the superintendent, cited privacy concerns and the fact it was not a Level 3 sex offense, the state's highest classification, to explain why parents were not told why Dietz resigned.
A telephone number for Dietz could not be located and she could not be reached for comment.
The state publicly releases each action it takes on a teacher's license, including a sentence explaining why. But the reason can be vague, with terms such as "inappropriate contact" undefined. Additional information is unavailable. Guarino said the department gives out sufficient information.
"We feel pretty confident in the way we disclose this information," she said.
"It's not our job to be the police on this; it's our job as the state to make a decision on whether these people should retain their licenses," she said.