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sreeder (34K)
About project and reporter

Key findings from the Hidden Violations investigation:

Small Newspaper Group

* Of the 50 states, only Virginia revokes or suspends fewer teaching certificates than Illinois.

* No investigators are employed by the Illinois State Board of Education so reports of teacher misconduct are often not investigated or acted upon.

* The Department of Children and Family Services has found 323 cases providing credible evidence of abuse by teachers, but none have had their licenses suspended or revoked.

* Teachers hired before 2004 have not had to undergo a state-mandated national criminal background check.

* Physicians are 43 times more likely than the state's teachers to have their license suspended or revoked. Lawyers are 25 times more likely than teachers to have their license suspended or revoked.

* None of the tenured teachers fired in the last decade have also lost their teaching certificate and certification officials are not notified when a school district disciplines an educator.

In 2005, Scott Reeder, Small Newspaper Group Springfield bureau chief, conducted a months-long investigation into the difficulty of firing a tenured school teacher in Illinois, and how seldom administrators use job performance evaluations to push for improvements.

The Hidden Costs of Tenure won multiple awards for investigative reporting. Now, in a follow-up to the 2005 investigation, Mr. Reeder has spent seven months examining two further measures of educator accountability: teacher licensure and revocation of pension benefits.

His findings are detailed in the stories below.

Illinois does poor job of dealing with teacher misconduct

SPRINGFIELD -- A tinge of pain still can be heard in Rebecca Scott's voice as she talks of the price of speaking out. Twenty years ago, she was front page news across Illinois -- the woman who accused her high school teacher Kim Alan Courtwright of having a sexual relationship with her when she was a student. 'It was the most difficult thing I had done in my life -- having everyone I know hear the most personal parts of my life. But I did it because I didn't want others to go through what I did,' Ms. Scott said in a recent interview.

Teachers get fired, but don't leave classroom

SPRINGFIELD -- Downers Grove School District spent $134,799 in legal fees alone to fire Stephen Wright, a tenured teacher. His conduct was considered so bad, that this is what tenure hearing officer Julius Menacker had to say in 2002 when he upheld Wright's firing:

Illinois lacks investigators, background on teachers before 2004

SPRINGFIELD -- Most teachers are committed to helping children learn and protecting them from harm, but like any profession there are a few wormy apples. Some states are willing to put up with more worms than others.

Moving bad teachers: Officials call it `passing the trash'

SPRINGFIELD -- Shortly after turning 19, Miranda Brockman walked into the Grundy County Sheriff's office and said she had been sexually abused by her grade school teacher, Derek Babcock.
The alleged abuse, she told deputies in 1996, happened from the time she was 12 until she turned 14.

Regional school officials: We're short of resources needed to investigate complaints about bad teachers

SPRINGFIELD -- William Novotney isn't a lawyer, detective or a judge.
But like 69 other regional superintendents of schools in Illinois he was expected to be each of those things at times. Illinois doesn't have any investigators to follow up on misconduct complaints against teachers.

The case of teacher Bill Beck: Warning signs ignored

SPRINGFIELD -- When Ben McAdams was Moline school superintendent, a particular teacher was a concern to him: Bill Beck.
The sixth-grade teacher and high school golf coach had put a combination lock on the front door of his home and shared its code with boys at Moline High School.

Experts disagree on frequency of sexual abuse of students

CHESTER -- Kevin Kilgallen had the characteristics many parents wanted in a teacher: clean-cut, family man, a master's degree, 10-years experience, excellent job evaluations and he even taught Sunday school.
But in 2003, Kilgallen confessed to police that he molested a 9-year-old girl in an elementary school classroom. He later recanted and pleaded innocent.

Editorial: Let’s keep Illinois schools free from known predators

It’s been called ‘‘passing the trash," ‘‘the dance of the lemons,’’ or ‘‘passing the turkey.’’ But lurking behind such flippant labels are sexual predators hidden by a broken system that allows them to remain in our kids’ classrooms.
An exhaustive investigation by Small Newspaper Group’s Scott Reeder found that Illinois ranks 49th in the rate of teacher certificates it revokes or suspends for teacher misconduct.

Teacher screens fail students

SPRINGFIELD -- In July 1977, Mark Wolff was a 12-year-old attending music camp at Western Illinois University in Macomb.
"I was an irresponsible kid and didn't lock the door to my dorm room before I went to sleep. Someone entered my room, and, well, he violated me," said Mr. Wolff, who is now a 43-year-old college professor in Oneonta, N.Y.

Chicago maintains secret files on teachers

SPRINGFIELD -- Imagine a place where the identity of educators convicted of sexually abusing children or stealing from taxpayers is kept secret.
That place is Illinois, Chicago to be more precise

Editorial: Teachers unions can take steps to protect our kids
Representatives of Illinois' two major teacher unions, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, declined to answers these two questions:
-- How confident should Illinois parents be that their child's teacher has been fully screened for past criminal convictions?

Two systems, one state: Chicago teachers don’t lose pension over job-related felony

SPRINGFIELD -- Monticello High School teacher Larry Albaugh stared into a webcam sitting atop a classroom computer, dropped his pants and fondled himself.
He thought his 2004 lewd performance was being viewed over the Internet by a 15-year-old girl, but it was actually an undercover police officer, a Macon County search warrant affidavit said.

Complete criminal histories of teachers can be hard to find

SPRINGFIELD -- One of the most confounding aspects of checking a person's criminal history is the crimes that don't show up. This is especially frustrating to those screening for positions involving enormous amounts of trust, such as teachers.