Dept. of Ed Sexual Misconduct Study, More Smoke Than Fire (Even They Say So!)

The much-awaited congressionally mandated study about sexual misconduct by educators is out. It’s ready made for sensational headlines like this, less so for serious analysis. That’s because it’s not really a study but rather an elaborate literature review of existing studies, each with its own — in some cases substantial — methodological limitations. And, the primary finding is based on a conflation of all manner of misconduct, not just physical abuse that most people think of when they hear “sexual misconduct.”

A good hint that this study is over-the-top? Even the Department of Education, lately not an organization spending a lot of effort on good PR for the public schools, is tamping it down.

That said, sexual misconduct by educators (and other adults) is a real problem, and when it happens to even one child that’s too many. Unfortunately, a study of studies based largely on self-reported data and interest group driven (read agenda driven) research isn’t likely to shed too much empirical light on the real extent of the problem (for a useful caution read this Atlantic article). Moreover, while incidence reporting obviously matters, it likely overstates the actual number of educators who commit these acts because, as with other forms of child abuse, it’s unlikely individual perpetrators are not striking repeated times.

The report does have some interesting recommendations although many are already practiced in school districts around the country. It mentions, essentially in passing, that it’s hard to get strong reporting and registry laws passed because state and local teachers’ unions often fight them but, curiously, doesn’t dwell on that issue. Apparently you can lead Ed School professors to water but…

Read it for yourself and decide if it’s a parent’s worst nightmare as AP says or perhaps a social scientist’s worst nightmare…

Advocacy Afterthought: How long before this “data” shows up in pro-voucher arguments? All things considered could be a tough sell though…

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