As befits the importance of teaching as a profession, Oregon has a public commission that investigates teachers who have allegedly broken state rules.
Actually, though, the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission would be more accurately described as “quasi-public.”
It turns out, as The Oregonian recently reported, that sometimes the Commission punishes teachers in private.
An Oregon law, in effect since 2009, allows this secretive discipline.
That law should be changed.
It doesn’t serve the interests of students’ parents, or the public in general, to allow the Commission to decide which transgressions should be made public and which shouldn’t.
According to The Oregonian, the Commission has used the secret discipline law 71 times since 2015. The newspaper reported that in one case state investigators determined that a Portland high school teacher had twice drank alcohol while on school field trips. The Commission put her on probation for two years for unprofessional conduct.
But the case was hidden from the public, and the Commission only sent a letter to the school district and the teacher.
The law doesn’t appear to create a yawning loophole that protects the privacy of teachers in egregious situations. It can’t be used, for instance, when a teacher has been convicted of a crime.
But the criminal justice system is public, so that concession hardly alleviates our concerns about the confidentiality law. So long as the Commission decides when to use the law, the public is precluded from judging the severity of a case.
We’re not suggesting that teachers be held to an unnecessary, and unfair, level of scrutiny.
But when the Commission that is supposed to act on the public’s behalf decides a teacher deserves to be disciplined, the public deserves to know what happened.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.