A new grant-funded project at The University of Texas at Arlington aims to catalog the growing number of investigations into allegations of teacher misconduct in Texas.
Catherine Robert, UTA assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies, is developing a database with information about Texas certified educators who have engaged in sexual misconduct during the last two decades (1999-2019). She is collaborating with David Thompson, professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Education and Human Development, on the project, titled “Educator Sexual Misconduct in Texas: Research, Instruction, Prevention” and funded by a $301,000 grant from the Texas Office of the Governor.
The database compiles information on Texas educators who had their educator certificates sanctioned, and will include employment and certification data. The goal is to provide empirical data on educator sexual misconduct (ESM) that can inform policymakers at the national and state levels.
For example, the researchers already have found that 36% of sanctioned teachers were in their first year of teaching in their school districts, and more than half of sanctioned teachers were coaches, band directors or extracurricular sponsors.
“My hope for the project is to shine a light on how to engage in better hiring practices of teachers,” Robert said. “Better staff training on appropriate behaviors with students both in and outside the classroom will also be important.”
The information can be used to describe and predict patterns among educator offenders in Texas. The grant also entails the development of staff training programs for maintaining appropriate boundaries with students and identifying grooming behaviors.
The two researchers are working with Manisha Vaswani, a doctoral candidate in UTA’s College of Business; and Alejandra Gonzalez-Meija and Brandon Tate, an M.Ed. candidate and Ph.D. candidate, respectively, from UT San Antonio.
“Dr. Robert’s and Thompson’s work directly informs how we prepare new and current teachers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of every child, while also gaining an understanding of appropriate boundaries between students and teachers,” said Teresa Doughty, dean of UTA’s College of Education. “This work will influence school policy for the protection of all students while assisting school leaders in supervising their teachers through analyzing more than 10 years of data collected in Texas.”