Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Preventing educator misconduct

According to a new state House press release, "Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Todd Thomsen that would increase the penalties for kidnapping and remove consent as a factor in the rape of a student by a school official or other person of authority has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee."
"In Oklahoma, we have heard of too many cases of teachers, coaches and other school officials abusing the authority they have over their students," Thomsen, R-Ada, said. "Though there are already statutory rape laws here, I thought it would also be necessary to ensure students above a certain age were protected. Even if the relationship is consensual, what these provisions do is clearly delineate the barrier that is very necessary for the protection of both the school official and the student from inappropriate sexual misconduct."

Now obviously, teachers and other school officials commit sexual misconduct in private schools as well as public schools. But as Greg Forster and Matthew Carr pointed out in a 2007 study, Disruptive Behavior: An Empirical Evaluation of School Misconduct and Market Accountability, "the important question for school-choice policy is whether 'market accountability' is as effective as 'regulatory accountability' in preventing school misconduct." Surprisingly,

despite the urgency of the question, no previous empirical studies have systematically compared misconduct levels in public and private schools.

This study uses the Nexis database to measure the frequency of employee misconduct at public and private schools in states that have school choice programs. It finds that cases of school misconduct occur disproportionately in public schools rather than in private schools. The study then applies a statistical test to these data, finding that they provide grounds for confidence that private schools subject to market accountability really are less likely to engage in misconduct than public schools subject to regulatory accountability.

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