DES MOINES (AP) — At least 103 cases of teacher misconduct in Iowa have been omitted from a national database since 1990.
The Des Moines Register's investigation revealed errors in Iowa's information, so state officials have ordered a full audit of the system.
Duane Magee leads the Iowa agency that licenses teachers. He said the state wants to make sure that all teachers sanctioned in the state are reported to the national database.
"What I can tell you is we are focused on protecting students," Magee said. "Our procedures call for us to put licensed sanctions in (the national database), and we want 100 percent compliance."
The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Clearinghouse was created to help prevent educators who were disciplined in one state from getting hired in another state.
State law also limits the amount of information the State Board of Educational Examiners can share about teachers, which could make it hard for school districts to ensure they're not hiring someone with a criminal record. The board can say only whether an individual has a valid teacher's license.
The law that restricts information-sharing is designed to protect the offender's privacy and to avoid misinterpretation of the data, said Adam DeCamp, a special agent with the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
But that idea doesn't seem to make sense when it comes to teachers, because individuals are being entrusted to care for children, said Superintendent Casey Berlau, who oversees the Cumberland, Anita and Massena schools in southwest Iowa.
"I side with those who say this is not just an ordinary job. It's contact with minors," Berlau said. "This seems like a big disconnect to me. I don't understand why there would be a law protecting that information."
A state law that took effect in 2014 does require Iowa schools to conduct background checks on all employees, but employees who aren't licensed teachers are checked only against the state's online court records. That makes it possible for criminal records in federal courts or other states to go unnoticed.
Lawmakers might revisit the idea of requiring more thorough background checks for all school employees, but in the past there has been resistance because of the cost.
"It is very concerning to me," said Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown. "It seems to me that first and foremost we've got a responsibility to protect children, and without these checks, it makes it easier for predators to go undetected."
"It seems to me that irst and foremost we've got a responsibility to protect children, and without these checks, it makes it easier for predators to go undetected."
State Rep. Mark Smith