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Sat, Dec. 07

State investigators seeing more teacher misconduct claims

Arizona Department of Education officials report an increase in sexual and other misconduct claims against teachers in the state. (Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash)

Arizona Department of Education officials report an increase in sexual and other misconduct claims against teachers in the state. (Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash)

PHOENIX (AP) – The investigative unit at the Arizona Department of Education says it has handled an increase in sexual and other misconduct claims against teachers.

Chief investigator David Spelich cited the workload in remarks to lawmakers and requested additional funding to add four investigators to the staff, The Arizona Republic reports.

He told lawmakers Thursday that the four investigators now on the staff handle as many as 150 cases apiece. He said an ideal caseload is 50.

"It's eye-opening the amount of misconduct that our agency looks at," Spelich said. "It's our utmost priority to make sure that none of us ever have to find out that a teacher slipped through the cracks."

The Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse task force, launched by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, also heard proposed legislative reforms aimed at loopholes that allow some school employees accused of sexual offenses to remain unnoticed, lawmakers said.

The Republic and AZ Public Radio exposed the loopholes in August.

The current law removing offenders from classrooms only applies to certified educators and not more than 6,000 non-certified school employees such as bus drivers and classroom aides, officials said.

The proposed legislation is expected to address that issue.

The proposal would cover thousands of additional employees, further increasing the investigative caseload, officials said.

State Sen. Paul Boyer, a teacher, told The Republic that he plans to advocate for as many as 12 more investigators and to allow non-certified school employees to be investigated.

"I'd like to cover anybody who has any interaction with students," he said.

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