UTA professor leads sexual misconduct investigation team

Catherine Robert, educational leadership and policy studies assistant professor, in her classroom Aug. 21 at Trimble Hall. With a grant from the Office of the Texas Governor, Robert is leading a team to investigate the patterns of educators who commit sexual misconduct.

 

According to Catherine Robert’s study, less than 0.08% of Texas educators are investigated for some form of sexual misconduct. The educational leadership and policy studies assistant professor said even this number is too high. 

With a $301,000 grant from the Office of the Texas Governor in the spring, Robert is leading and collaborating with a team that analyzes the demographics, certification and employment histories of educators who commit sexual misconduct, providing instructional material for incoming teachers. 

“Our work is helping people understand the patterns of behavior,” she said. “We’re looking at people who have been sanctioned, we’re looking at how many times do they move in their career.” 

It is estimated that as many as one in 10 students will experience some form of sexual misconduct during their time in primary school, Robert said. It is possible that a teacher can be fired from a school for misconduct only to be rehired by another district if the firing district did not report the misconduct. 

Robert said her interest in the subject began during her time as a human resources administrator for a school district. During her time there, she dealt with a case where an educator was arrested for misconduct along with two to three other cases. 

“The hardest part about this kind of issue is that not everything gets reported,” Robert said. 

David Thompson, UT-San Antonio professor of educational leadership and policy studies, said the number of investigations that the Texas Education Agency has opened in the last 10 years has increased every year. This number is rising partially because new state legislative initiatives have led to greater reporting, he said. 

Thompson is responsible for creating instructional training for potential new teachers based on the findings of this study.

Robert and Thompson are using records provided by Texas Education Agency officials to show the characteristics of teachers most likely to commit sexual abuse. 

Although the study hasn’t finished yet, Thompson said some things are apparent by the data available. For instance, he said there is a reason to believe that teachers who engage in inappropriate contact are younger, earlier in their career and newer to the district. 

Business doctoral candidate Manisha Vaswani has been helping Robert for the past three months. Vaswani has been responsible for data cleaning, coding and analysis. 

She said her original interest in the study stemmed from its merging of human resources and education. The study’s findings will help spot red flags during the hiring process for both fields. 

@SpencerBrewer10

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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