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Student Safety Teachers' Top Concern

Dear Editor:

The Seattle Times report on “Coaches Who Prey” reveals that career protection for a few rotten apples has been a higher priority than children’s safety for some administrators and union officials who have encouraged purging files of disciplinary records in order to deter public disclosure.

Teachers/coaches (by the way, not all coaches are teachers) should expect fair treatment and protection from false allegations. False allegations cast unjust doubt on their hard-earned reputations. Student welfare is the highest priority, however. As public servants, teachers/coaches should support public scrutiny when children’s safety is at issue. Openness encourages trust between parents and teachers. It also heightens system accountability to ensure that predatory teachers/coaches will not quietly move from district to district.

No educator wants unnecessary public humiliation during an investigation; yet, no decent teacher or coach would ever wish for a system that protects known perpetrators. An open documents policy works to teachers’/coaches’ benefit when false allegations are made. At the same time, it makes certain that abusive teachers are quickly dispatched from the classroom and from the profession we educators love.

Public access to teachers’/coaches' records regarding sexual misconduct charges can help the public and our profession hold the state accountable to protect children’s physical and mental welfare. Those in authority must remember that the schools exist for the sake of the students—not vice versa.

Ed Dawson, President of Northwest Professional Educators (, is a high school German and Spanish teacher in Battle Ground School District, Vancouver, WA. He has a law degree from Western State University, College of Law, and taught Personnel Management at Yavapai College, Prescott, AZ.

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