Dayton, Legislators Speak Out About Board's Failure to Report Teacher Sexual Misconduct

September 27, 2017 10:29 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton issued a strongly-worded statement Tuesday demanding changes to the state teaching board that failed to report teachers accused of sexual misconduct to law enforcement. 

The state Board of Teaching's failure to report the teachers was revealed Monday as part of a KSTP investigation.

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"It is disgraceful that these incidents were not immediately reported to law enforcement," Dayton said. "This Board has a moral responsibility to ensure that all Minnesota teachers are properly qualified, and to protect the safety of our schoolchildren."

RELATED: State Board Failed to Report Teachers Accused of Sexual Misconduct

He added that Minnesota statute requires the board be reconstituted in October. 

"I will strongly urge the new Board to ensure it is meeting both its legal and moral obligations to report any such instances of misconduct to the proper authorities," Dayton said.

Rep. Jennifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, issued a statement earlier Tuesday calling out Dayton, who appointed all the members on the teaching board. 

"Every single teacher in the state of Minnesota is mandated to report allegations of sexual misconduct to authorities. It's unconscionable that Governor Dayton's appointees at the Board of Teaching failed to do the same, sweeping these disturbing cases under the rug and potentially putting students in harm's way," Loon said. "In 2017, Republican-led reforms—opposed by Governor Dayton and Democrats—closed this loophole and ensured that the new Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB), as well as the Board of School Administrators (BOSA), will be obligated to report allegations moving forward." 

Dayton called Loon's assertions "untrue." 

"She knows that my administration opposed provisions in the new teachers’ licensure law, which were completely unrelated to the reporting of sexual assaults," his statement read. "There is not a shred of difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ commitments to protecting Minnesota’s schoolchildren from sexual abuses."

Rep. Jim Davnie (D-Minneapolis) released a statement calling on new legislation.

"These cases of unreported sexual misconduct are very troubling. I would ask Rep. Loon and Rep. Erickson that we pass a stand-alone bill that ensures the members of the Board of Teaching are mandatory reporters of sexual misconduct," he said. "We should also speed up the enactment date of the changes that were made in 2017."

KSTP reached out to the Board of Teaching on Tuesday, but has yet to receive a response.

Full statements from all parties are included at the end of this story.

Search Teacher Stipulations in Database and Map with Disciplinary Actions Taken by Board

A review of public records and interviews with law enforcement revealed the Minnesota Board of Teaching failed to report at least 17 teachers accused of those allegations dating to the 1980s

The board, which has the authority to suspend or revoke a teacher's license, does not consider itself a mandated reporter of allegations of sexual or inappropriate behavior involving teachers and students.

The board stated it is "not aware of any legal obligation" to report disciplinary action related to such allegations to law enforcement. 

Instead, the board has operated in a vacuum for decades in which it conducts internal investigations and determines what qualifies as criminal behavior.

"The specifics behind some of this conduct often may reflect unacceptable and unprofessional behavior and/or boundary violations, but do not constitute criminal conduct and law enforcement involvement," Alex Liuzzi, the board's interim executive director, said in a statement.

He declined multiple requests for an on-camera interview but added in the statement, "The Board has an obvious interest in ensuring that the teachers who have engaged in inappropriate or illegal conduct are appropriately disciplined when warranted."

Janet Reiter, the Chisago County Attorney, says that practice puts students at risk. She believes the board is not capable of making such determinations.

"What (the board) are investigating is criminal activity and the fact that it doesn't end up into (sic) the hands of our law enforcement agencies is astounding," Reiter said. "It's just simply unbelievable."


Should the Minnesota Board of Teaching be required to immediately report complaints/allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior to law enforcement? Let these lawmakers know your views. 


Rep. Loon full statement:

Every single teacher in the state of Minnesota is mandated to report allegations of sexual misconduct to authorities. It's unconscionable that Governor Dayton's appointees at the Board of Teaching failed to do the same, sweeping these disturbing cases under the rug and potentially putting students in harm's way. In 2017, Republican-led reforms—opposed by Governor Dayton and Democrats—closed this loophole and ensured that the new Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB), as well as the Board of School Administrators (BOSA), will be obligated to report allegations moving forward.

If the Dayton administration was aware that the Board of Teaching was violating the trust of Minnesotans and failing to report serious allegations of sexual misconduct to authorities, the governor should explain immediately why they allowed this practice to take place. The Board of Teaching was made up of his appointees, and it's frankly disturbing that they felt it was appropriate to act as gatekeepers and hide these cases from law enforcement. We hope Governor Dayton will work with us to ensure it is crystal clear to his appointees that allegations must be forwarded to the proper authorities without delay. The individuals he appoints to the board have a legal and moral responsibility to do so and ensure the safety of our students.

Gov. Dayton's full statement

It is disgraceful that these incidents were not immediately reported to law enforcement. This Board has a moral responsibility to ensure that all Minnesota teachers are properly qualified, and to protect the safety of our schoolchildren.

By statute, a new Board will be reconstituted in October. I will strongly urge the new Board to ensure it is meeting both its legal and moral obligations to report any such instances of misconduct to the proper authorities.

Representative Loon’s irresponsible assertions are completely untrue. She knows that my administration opposed provisions in the new teachers’ licensure law, which were completely unrelated to the reporting of sexual assaults. There is not a shred of difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ commitments to protecting Minnesota’s schoolchildren from sexual abuses.

Rep. Davnie's full statement: 

These cases of unreported sexual misconduct are very troubling. I would ask Rep. Loon and Rep. Erickson that we pass a stand-alone bill that ensures the members of the Board of Teaching are mandatory reporters of sexual misconduct. We should also speed up the enactment date of the changes that were made in 2017. We need to prevent any future problems with reporting of crimes to law enforcement. In all my years at the legislature, there has rarely been an issue on which there was such broad bipartisan agreement. However, because of politics, the safety of our kids couldn't be debated and passed as a stand-alone bill. As a retired teacher, Rep. Erickson understands the obligations of a mandatory reporter. Rep. Erickson also understands the duties of members of the Board of Teaching, because she sat on the board herself for a time, even while some of these cases were being discussed. She may be the best person to ask, as to why the board did not take on the duties of a law enforcement agency? 

Everyone in the legislature agreed on the provisions that will require the Board of Teaching to report to law enforcement when they revoke or suspend a license based on sexual misconduct or abuse. Everyone in the many coalitions that advocate for students and teachers agreed to the provision. Everyone in the Governor's administration agreed to the provision. We could easily pass a stand-alone bill to move up the deadline for this provision if legislative leaders had desired to do that, instead of playing games with other controversial issues packed into the Omnibus E-12 Education Finance bill. When leaders put issues about student safety in a bill that contains controversial provisions, they are not protecting students. They are doing the opposite.

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