LAS VEGAS — The Nevada Department of Education took an average of one year to find out that licensed teachers had been arrested, and some licenses were active even after the licensee had been sentenced to jail or prison for a sex-related crime, according to a state audit.
The findings were published in a report released Tuesday by the Legislative Counsel Bureau and based on a sample of 13 license revocation cases.
“The office does not have an adequate revocation process for licensees convicted of crimes,” auditors said.
While local school districts are often quick to learn of an arrest and pull a teacher out of the classroom, the news is slow to make its way to the state Department of Education, which issues licenses. In 10 of the 13 cases auditors examined, the department didn’t hear about an arrest until a staff member heard about it through the local news.
State Superintendent Dale Erquiaga acknowledged the shortcomings of the office, which he took over in August 2013, and said staff has made changes to address the issues.
“One of the most critical licensure functions is keeping children safe in schools,” he said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Over the years, probably because of the growth in volume, those processes were not what they should be.”
Not all teacher arrests were tracked. Auditors say they searched the Internet and found news of five licensees who had been arrested for sex-related crimes but whose cases were not being monitored for possible license revocation.
Two people still had their licenses even after they were convicted and sentenced to jail or prison.
Auditors said it took between one and 1,200 days for the office to become aware that a licensee had been arrested.
A law passed in 2007 requires the Department of Education to set up a process for learning of and tracking criminal cases involving licensees, but the department never carried out the mandate, auditors said. Education department staff started working on that project during the audit, the report said.
Without a strong revocation process in place, teachers could end up in a classroom somewhere else in spite of their criminal history.
“It is possible for an arrested licensee, who is not in custody, to seek employment outside of the school district where they were employed,” auditors said.