State teaching board says not obligated to report misconduct

Published 6:13 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota board that has authority over teaching licenses said it’s not legally obligated to report allegations of teachers’ sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior to law enforcement.

According to a press release, reports its review of public records and interviews with law enforcement found the Minnesota Board of Teaching failed to report at least 17 teachers accused of such allegations dating back to the 1980s. The board conducts internal investigations and determines what qualifies as criminal behavior.

“The specifics behind some of this conduct often may reflect unacceptable and unprofessional behavior and/or boundary violations, but do not constitute criminal conduct and law enforcement involvement,” Alex Liuzzi, the board’s interim executive director, said in a statement.

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The board is not capable of making such determinations and is putting students at risk, according to Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter.

“What (board members) are investigating is criminal activity and the fact that it doesn’t end up into (sic) the hands of our law enforcement agencies is astounding,” Reiter said. “It’s just simply unbelievable.”

Reiter said she first learned of the board’s failure to report allegations of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior when her office investigated a Rush City teacher.

Jon Hughes, 57, was convicted earlier this month of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct while in a position of authority. Investigators determined he repeatedly had sexual contact with a student at Rush City High School. The student had reported her relationship with Hughes to the board back in 2000, according to a criminal complaint.

Hughes signed a stipulation agreement with the board in 2001 in which he acknowledged he engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with the student. The board revoked Hughes’ license, but never shared the allegations with the sheriff’s office.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that it was “disgraceful” that such incidents are not immediately reported to law enforcement.

“This Board has a moral responsibility to ensure that all Minnesota teachers are properly qualified, and to protect the safety of our schoolchildren,” Dayton said in a statement.

The state Legislature passed a law that goes into effect next year requiring the board to notify law enforcement of such allegations, but only if it takes disciplinary action.