- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2004

Members of the National Education Association’s conservative caucus yesterday asked state leaders of the teachers union to address a federal research report on sexual abuse by teachers and other public-school employees.

“We believe it is in full keeping with the NEA’s commitment to safe schools to lobby for the continuance of this investigation and otherwise see to it that the work begun … be carried forward without delay,” conservative caucus members said in providing the June 30 report to all 50 state NEA directors.

More than 4.5 million students were victims of sexual misconduct by teachers and other school employees in the past decade, said the Education Department study, “Educator Sexual Misconduct.”

Yesterday, among several hundred wide-ranging resolutions adopted by about 9,000 NEA delegates at their annual convention at the Washington Convention Center, the union called on states to develop “a systematic process for gathering evidence” when sexual assaults occur.

Sissy Jochmann, a member of NEA’s Pennsylvania delegation and chairwoman of the conservative caucus, said the union’s position does not go far enough. The caucus told NEA directors that it planned “to initiate the process of examining this issue during the coming year in state resolutions committees.”

Mrs. Jochmann, a second-grade teacher, said her group, with members in 17 states, wants the NEA to help develop “a decisive and effective response” in every state to the problem of sex abuse by teachers.

“Our goal is to turn back the momentum of the sexual culture in our schools, which is pervasive,” she said. “We want to do everything we can in our schools to have a safe environment for our kids.”

Charlie Mann, an elementary teacher in Maryland, said the NEA must take greater initiative so children do not feel threatened as “targets of exploitation by sexually active people, whether they be students or adults.”

Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, the presumptive Democratic presidential ticket, addressed the convention by live satellite feed from Cleveland after Mr. Kerry had canceled a scheduled appearance on Tuesday.

Mr. Kerry said the Bush administration had made “a mockery of the words ‘leave no child behind’” and made teachers “a scapegoat for his own broken promises.”

Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, accepted the NEA’s “Friend of Education” award.

NEA President Reg Weaver blocked efforts by pro-choice delegates to prevent delegate Judy Bruns of the Ohio delegation from proposing that NEA support for “the right to reproductive freedom” be stripped from a family-planning resolution.

“The only way we can be truly neutral on the abortion issue is to delete the words ‘reproductive freedom,’” said Mrs. Bruns, a junior-high-school language-arts teacher. After a 30-minute debate, the convention rejected the proposal by voice vote.

In other resolutions, the NEA convention supported homosexual rights and programs to teach schoolchildren to be tolerant of homosexual, bisexual and transgendered lifestyles; criticized capital punishment in the United States; and called for a federally run health care program.

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