Some Iowa teachers convicted of sexually abusing students have been placed on probation rather than sentenced to prison, despite a state law requiring they spend time behind bars, a Des Moines Register investigation has found.
The law, passed in 1997, specifically prohibits anyone who is a "mandatory reporter" of child abuse — such as a teacher, social worker or psychologist — from eligibility for probation.
It was passed to hold educators and others in positions of power and influence over children to higher standards of accountability.
But the Register's review of such cases over the past five years revealed at least seven instances in which teachers served no prison time after being convicted of sex crimes involving children attending their schools. Some judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys acknowledged the mistakes, which they said resulted from misunderstandings involving the sentencing requirements for such cases.