Saturday, December 22, 2007

Big Brother Mania

This story is disturbing for several reasons.

List of Problem Teachers Released by Newspaper:

"A confidential, nationwide list of 24,500 teachers who have been punished for a wide array of offenses was made available to the public Friday by a Florida newspaper.

"The Sarasota Herald-Tribune created a searchable database of the teachers' names after waiting for years to gain access to the list. The paper began seeking the material as part of its earlier reporting on teacher sexual misconduct in Florida."

Sounds like good, altruistic reasons, doesn't it? Until you read further

"The list also does not provide details on what teachers got in trouble for, and leaves it to states or hiring school districts to dig for more information...The newspaper's Web site, Herald Tribune, allows readers to type in a name and state to determine whether a person is in the database. The list provides no other information than a date of birth to confirm an identity."

I checked the newspaper's website and the information presented is completely unsubstantiated. In fact, other than the identity of the teacher "in trouble", there is no context presented regarding the "offense" or misconduct of which they are accused.

The fact that this information may violate "several states' laws" is troubling enough, but more concerning are the comments of Professor Robert Shoop, "
a Kansas State University professor who has studied teacher sexual misconduct and has called for tougher oversight and more openness by administrators, said a current list of problem teachers should be gathered by each state and made public to better protect students. "Clearly the public does have a right to know and they should have access," he said.

Of course, but unsubstantiated information presented on the internet in such a random, slipshod fashion can destroy careers and reputations (see also: the inefficiency and uselessness of state sex offender registries). The methodology for inclusion on this list is missing from the database, and many of these people may not even belong there.

Again, everyone wants to protect our children, and teachers with criminals records should be weeded out. But this kind of draconian, Big Brother release of incomplete and inaccurate information is troubling, to say the least.

Teachers deserve our scrutiny, but they also deserve our support and respect. I can't imagine another profession, say lawyers or doctors, which would tolerate this kind of nonsense.

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