Accused of Sexual Assault, No Big Deal, Just Teach Somewhere Else; The Cautionary Tale of Mr. Bissell and What We Can Do

Matthew Bissell, was accused of sexually assaulting a student at Berkeley High over a period of 4 years.  He left that school and went on to teach in, at least one more public school, and who knows how many others.  Berkeleyside details the story here

It was only because a teacher at the second school recognized him (they went to Berkeley High), that he was relieved of that substitute job.  So, luck or providence or something intervened there, but let’s say he moves a little further away.   He can likely get a substitute job, and face little scrutiny, and less oversight, putting other children at risk.

So how is someone accused of sexual assault of a student still teaching?

Again from Berkeleyside.

“An educator’s license remains valid until a final decision has been made by the Commission unless specific adverse licensing action is required to be taken by operation of law,” Sasha Horwitz, public affairs manager at the Commission of Teacher Credentialing, wrote in an email to Berkeleyside.

What, what, what?

I get that there may be some small (very small/infinitesimal) number of false accusations, and there may be some folks who have their licenses suspended wrongfully.  However, shouldn’t we weigh in on the side of student safety where we aren’t sure.  And this one, we are pretty sure, I think.

I know this game, I have hotlined staff I worked with on allegations of abuse, a kid told me that a staff member came into his room (I worked in a group home), and put his hand under the blanket…

I reported it.  It was pretty certainly true.  But it was determined “unfounded.”  A few months later, another incident, and the guy is let go.  Never charged, never reported to authorities, and they move on to another group home or school or youth program and do it all again.  I could count nearly a dozen molesters that I worked with in the group home, a few were actually charged, but most just slithered to a new institution, with new kids.

I argued before that we need a better no hire list, that once there is a credible accusation, you are on the list.  You cant teach, you cant be in a situation where you are put alone with children, or with children most generally.  You could clear your name, by showing the accusations are unfounded.  But right now, the game is tilted in favor of abusers. 

So be on the lookout for a sub named Mr. Bissell, because unfortunately, the system will not protect you or your child.  We need a better system.

What do you think?

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