A disturbing report from the Defense of Freedom Institute details what they call an “epidemic of sexual abuse” in public schools across the country. 

The report titled “Catching the Trash” authored by Paul Zimmerman unpacks the data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that shows a dramatic increase in allegations of sexual violence in public schools over the past decade. The key findings of the report include startling data:

Between 2010 and 2019, the number of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) alleging sexual violence against K–12 schools more than tripled. The most recently published Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC)—from 97,632 schools— underscores this unfortunate trend. For 2015–16, the CRDC reported 9,649 incidents of sexual violence; of that number, 394 constituted instances of rape or attempted rape. For 2017–18, the numbers were 13,799 and 685, respectively—an increase of 43 percent and 74 percent.

On top of the egregious jump in allegations of violence, there is a problem with reporting and cover-up that prevents parents from accessing this data and allows predator teachers to continue abusing children. The disgusting practice of “passing the trash” occurs after a teacher is accused of abusing a student. According to the report, administrators “chose to allow the abuser to operate in the shadows or quietly transferred that teacher to another school or district to find new victims and restart the cycle of abuse.”

A 2018 study found that a teacher accused of abuse is on average passed to three different school districts and could have up to 73 victims. 

Because they exist to protect adults, not children, teachers’ unions enable this dangerous practice to occur. In an effort to protect members who have committed abuse, local education agencies and teachers unions conceal damning records of employees who have committed crimes against children.

The report offers a sickening illustration of a real string of abuse that occurred across multiple school districts in different states:

In 2005, a public school teacher in Wisconsin resigned after signing an agreement, negotiated with the assistance of his local teacher union representative, in which the school district agreed to destroy all records regarding the issue that led to his departure. In 2011, the teacher resigned from a Chicago public school for children with emotional and behavioral issues amid allegations that he invited his students to watch movies with him in bed, taught them how to access pornography on his computer, and stroked the zipper on the pants of one of his students. He later asserted that he received a promise from school personnel that they would “not go into the details” of his resignation if asked by another school district. He resurfaced in Florida public schools and taught there until he was forced to resign once again in 2018.

The Defense of Freedom Institute calls on the Office for Civil Rights to do a better job of enforcing Title IX to protect children from all kinds of abuse in schools. It also implores Congress to make it mandatory that local education agencies publish yearly reports on crimes in their schools. 

But, government policies can only do so much to protect children. In addition to necessary policy changes, it’s important that parents remain intimately involved in their children’s lives and school communities. Efforts to bar parents from having a say in curriculum decisions make schools less safe. Allowing sexualized material to be freely taught to our youngest and most vulnerable American children certainly increases the risk of sexual violence occurring in schools. Protecting children in public schools is non-negotiable, the trend of increased sexual violence is unacceptable and must be reversed immediately.