AUGUSTA (AP) – Teachers in Maine have been accused of sexual involvement with students, but state law bars disclosure of how many educators lost their certifications as a result.

A 1913 statute prohibits the state Department of Education from providing access to documents that show why certification has been denied, revoked or suspended. The department cited that law in rejecting a Freedom of Access request by the Associated Press for records of disciplinary actions against certified teachers between 2001 and 2005.

The request was part of a seven-month investigation in which AP reporters sought records on teacher discipline in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Across the country, sexual misconduct allegations led states to take action against the licenses of 2,570 educators from 2001 through 2005. That figure includes licenses that were revoked, denied and surrendered.

Young people were victims in at least 69 percent of the cases, and the large majority of those were students.

Nine out of 10 of those abusive educators were male. And at least 445 of the cases the AP found involved educators who had multiple victims.

There are about 3 million teachers in the United States.

In Maine, the teacher confidentiality law blocked release of any revealing data. Even Gov. John Baldacci knows how restrictive Maine’s law is.

While running for his first gubernatorial term in 2002, Baldacci opposed Maine’s “fingerprinting” law which requires school employees to submit to criminal background checks and fingerprints to prevent those with histories of sexual abuse from being hired.

After Baldacci was elected, his education commissioner, Susan Gendron, sought to provide him with the numbers of decertifications in order to persuade him to change his mind, said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the department. The move was denied at first, but Gendron ultimately received clearance from the state attorney general’s office to provide the numbers.

An AP review of news reports from recent years, data from the state’s Sex Offender Registry and records from state courts provides a glimpse into the problem in Maine. It confirms convictions of two teachers and one other school employee between 2001 and 2005 for sex offenses.

In Gorham, a junior high school teacher pleaded guilty in 2003 to sexual abuse of a minor for having contact with a 14-year-old student. Timothy Fogg received a two-year sentence with all but six months suspended. State records show only that his certification ended in 2002, but no reason is given.

In Windham, former Latin teacher James Bourget pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge involving a 16-year-old student and received a 364-day suspended jail sentence. Bourget’s teacher certification also ended in 2003.

Records turned up names of a drama club adviser in Westbrook who was convicted of unlawful sexual contact with a 17-year-old, but there is no certification record listed for him. A driver education instructor was acquitted of a charge of unlawful sexual contact in March 2002 and state records show teacher certification ending in 2004.

Records also show numerous other cases in which teachers and coaches in Maine public and private schools were accused of sexual offenses involving students prior to 2001. One case stems from a prominent educator’s offenses in Massachusetts.

The sex registry says the former head of Maine’s English-as-a-second-language program, Bernard “Barney” Berube, was sentenced in February to 90 days for two counts of indecent assault and battery of a child under 14. The charges stemmed events at a summer camp in Massachusetts in 1976.

Maine’s fingerprinting law had turned up about 1,300 people with convictions as of 2001. The convictions include misdemeanors and felonies and a wide range of crimes.

The state had fingerprinted about 29,000 people out of a total work force of 45,000 to 50,000 as of 2001. The Department of Education, citing Maine’s confidentiality law, refused to release updated figures.

AP-ES-10-20-07 1030EDT


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