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Minn. State board has failed to report multiple teacher sex abuse incidents, report finds

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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Board of Teaching has not been reporting teachers' sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior with students that it uncovers.

KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities reports it has found at least 17 times the board has not reported such instances since the 1980s. Board officials said they have no legal obligation to report the incidents, but political leaders say they should.

"Every single teacher in the state of Minnesota is mandated to report allegations of sexual misconduct to authorities," House Education Finance Chairwoman Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, said. "It's unconscionable that Gov. 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,"

Gov. Mark Dayton himself was unhappy with the lack of reporting.

"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."

State law requires the board to be reconstituted next month. Loon said the new board is specifically required to report misconduct allegations to law enforcement officers.

"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.

The existing board can suspend or revoke a teacher's license, but its leader says the old law does not require it to report sex abuse.

"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 to KSTP.

The television station quotes Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter as saying that not reporting the incidents puts students at risk.

In one incident, a student told the board about sex abuse by a teacher in 2000, but no action was taken until she brought up the issue with law enforcement officials last year. The board revoked the teacher's license in 2001 after he admitted to the "inappropriate relationship," but no one on the board told police.

The new law requires that law enforcement be notified about abuse, but only if the board take disciplinary action.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.