Monday, October 21, 2002

Ohio asked for more teacher oversight

The Associated Press

AKRON, Ohio - The Ohio Department of Education wants to tighten laws on reporting and investigating teachers so school administrators would have to inform the department about potential misconduct.

The department sent a package of proposals to the Legislature last week, recommending the state have the power to investigate reports, issue subpoenas and make criminal background checks part of the license renewal process.

The department, which has investigated 3,660 complaints in 2002 ranging from minor traffic offenses to student abuse, also wants the power to take action against the license of anyone convicted of a crime.

"The proposed laws would give us the opportunity to investigate complaints when they occur," said Adrian Allison, administrator of the department's Office of Professional Conduct. "We want to take some steps to get mandatory reporting on the major issues concerning abuse, sex, drugs."

If the rules had been on the books in 1979, James Rokosky would not have gone on teaching after he was pressured to resign from Stanton Middle School in Alliance for writing a love letter to a 12-year-old student.

Mr. Rokosky has been accused of inappropriate conduct with three female students between 1978 and 1982, including having sex with an 11-year-old and having a relationship with a 17-year-old student, according to his personnel files.

Now 48, he has taught in 11 public Ohio districts and at private schools in five counties.

In April 2001, the Akron Public Schools placed Mr. Rokosky on paid leave pending an investigation after being notified by one of the students, and on Tuesday, the State Board of Education revoked his teaching license.

Yet Mr. Rokosky is eligible to reapply for a license after 2006.

The Ohio Education Association, representing 128,000 teachers and other school employees, is concerned the reporting laws could increase frivolous claims and invade teachers' privacy.

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