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Provide resources to get `bad apples' out of teaching

By Ken Swanson, President, Illinois Education Association

Recent news coverage has placed a spotlight on one of society's most disturbing problems: the abuse of children by those entrusted to care for them - in this case, school employees. Though the attention is painful to the hundreds of thousands of selfless public and private school employees who teach and care for more than two and a half million Illinois students every day, this issue must never be ignored.

In any group this large, there will be 'bad apples.' Our primary focus must be on student safety. While abuse of this nature is thankfully a rare occurrence, every such instance is tragic and intolerable.

No one is more focused on keeping students safe than teachers and school support professionals, people who work in schools because they want to make a positive difference in the lives of children. Anyone who would rob a student of a piece of their childhood must be kept away from our schools and our students.

All that can be done to keep children safe must be done. The Illinois State Board of Education must be provided with adequate resources to follow up on investigations of sex abuse. We believe that when charges of criminal abuse are proven, teacher certification should be revoked immediately, with no exceptions.

It is important that those who share our outrage that these crimes against children ever occur do not misdirect their anger at all school employees. Don't lose sight of the teachers, support professionals and administrators who are dedicated to their profession and to their students' welfare. We reject any suggestion that ensuring that school employees accused of wrongdoing are treated fairly by the legal system in any way conflicts with our commitment to the safety of the students in our care.

No one is more dedicated to the safety and well-being of children when they are in school than the people who work in those buildings.

No one, aside from the children themselves and their parents, has more at stake in the discussion about student safety than school employees. No one will work harder than these dedicated professionals to ensure that schools remain among the safest places a child can be. We are ready to work with anyone at anytime to keep our students safe.