Report: State board says it’s not its job to report sexual misconduct of teachers

Perhaps there’s a good reason why the Minnesota Board of Teaching has failed to report to law enforcement at least 17 teachers accused of sexual misconduct.

KSTP’s investigation into the board, however, hasn’t yet relayed it.

According to the station, the board doesn’t think the board has a responsibility to.

“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, told the TV station in a statement.

That may be true but typically that’s something left to law enforcement and prosecutors to decide.

Chisago County prosecutor Janet Reiter told the station she first learned of the problem when Jon Hughes, 57, was accused of sexual misconduct in Rush City.

The former student reported Hughes to school officials in 2014, but she’d also reported him in 2001, leading Hughes to sign a statement acknowledging he engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with the student. While the board suspended his license to teach, it didn’t report the case to authorities, KSTP reported.

In a statement, the board said its “practices did not involve sharing disciplinary action with law enforcement” at the time.

“This was eye-opening for our prosecutors and law enforcement,” Reiter said. “This was something that was unprecedented.”

The state Legislature passed a law earlier this year, after the Hughes case became public, which will require the board to notify law enforcement of such allegations — but only if it takes disciplinary action. That means the board will continue to act as a gatekeeper in which its process determines which allegations should be investigated by law enforcement. That law will go into effect next year.

The board’s disciplinary process, which occurs behind closed doors, takes at least 30 days and would essentially delay criminal investigations that often depend on immediate access to evidence.

Reiter says law enforcement should be notified within 24 hours.

KSTP identified two dozen other teachers “who were accused of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior who may have never been reported for criminal investigation.”

The problem was first flagged last fall by Fox 9 News when Hughes was charged with criminal sexual conduct. It reported that the Board of Teaching was aware of allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a high schooler in her junior and senior year for more than a decade without telling authorities.