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Audit finds department of education was slow to revoke licenses from arrested teachers

A Nevada audit recently revealed that the department of education takes too much time to revoke the licenses of teachers who’ve been arrested for a variety of offenses, including sex crimes.  The average wait time is more than a year.

The audit examined 13 cases last year in which a person holding a Nevada education license was arrested for a crime, after which the state took up to 1,200 days to revoke their license.  

Dale Erquiaga is the Superintendent of Public Instruction and he says in those 13 cases, no children were endangered.

“I also want parents to understand that school districts still have that employer/employee relationship," Erquiaga says. "They do their own background checks and they were quick to remove any of the individuals, who were cited in the audit. None of them were working in a school.”

Back in 2007, the state legislature required the department of education to setup a procedure for school districts to notify the state of an employee’s arrest, but that didn’t happen, creating the communication gap and delays that were highlighted in the audit.

“The state department has no way of knowing when an individual teacher or principal is arrested," Erquiaga says. "There are 24 thousand licensees in the state of Nevada and we do not have an employer/employee relationship with those individuals.”

Erquiaga took his post last year and says the department recently adopted the regulations needed to fix this situation. Revoking a license in a timely fashion ensures a convicted criminal isn’t then hired in another district or state. But since a license is considered a property right, Erquiaga says it can’t be taken away without due process.

“They have to be noticed. They have to have the time to respond, a meeting of the state board has to be scheduled, and the individual has to be given a chance to appear.”

Erquiaga would like to see the time it takes to revoke a license cut down to about two months but he says since it's a legal process, it will most likely take up to four months instead.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
Anh is a contributing editor for the KUNR news team and has been with the station since 2014. She is an alumna of the Boston University School of Public Health and Teachers College, Columbia University.