State's Made Strides in Checking Teacher Backgrounds

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - When Alabama began fingerprinting and doing background checks on teachers and support staff in 2002, administrators noticed a pattern.

A longtime educator would miss several appointments for fingerprinting, then suddenly retire. Others resigned before the state got a chance to look into their past.

State Superintendent Joe Morton says it became clear that the new law was working, weeding out those whose past posed a problem and moving Alabama "light years" ahead in improving safety controls for schoolchildren.

Propelled by a high-profile Mobile case, the new law set in motion a process that allowed background checks to be completed on all current and new staff in 2004.

But the state education department has been reluctant to provide the public with full details and slow to release records of teachers cited for wrongdoing, including sexual misconduct.

An Associated Press review of State Department of Education records found that more than 50 teachers have had their teaching certificates revoked, denied or suspended for sexual misconduct -- including acts with students and other minors -- during 2001-2005.

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(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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