An investigation by the USA TODAY NETWORK found fundamental defects in the teacher screening systems used to ensure the safety of children in the nation's more than 13,000 school districts.
The patchwork system of laws and regulations — combined with inconsistent execution and flawed information sharing between states and school districts — fails to keep teachers with histories of serious misconduct out of classrooms and away from schoolchildren. At least three states already have begun internal investigations and audits based on questions raised during the course of this investigation.
Over the course of a year, the USA TODAY NETWORK gathered the databases of certified teachers and disciplined teachers using the open records laws of each of the 50 states. Additionally, journalists used state open records laws to obtain a private nationwide discipline database that many states use to background teachers.