Nationwide records of teacher discipline were kept from public view until recently, when a Florida newspaper collected and published the records in an online database that can be searched by name.
The announcement of this database creates a debate between competing interests, including from some who wonder why the records were not public to begin with. On the other side of the debate, there is the possibility that the newspaper has acted in an illegal manner by making otherwise private records available online. From Breitbart on December 21, 2007:
A confidential, nationwide list of 24,500 teachers who have been punished for a wide array of offenses was made available to the public Friday by a Florida newspaper.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune created a searchable database of the teachers’ names after waiting for years to gain access to the list. The paper began seeking the material as part of its earlier reporting on teacher sexual misconduct in Florida. It obtained the list from the Florida Department of Education.
The list, gathered and maintained by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, does not provide any information on why any of the teachers were disciplined. Sexual misconduct, financial misconduct, criminal convictions and other misbehavior all can bring disciplinary actions against teacher licenses.
The Sunshine and Open Records Blog reports that the East Valley Tribune has created a database of Arizona teacher misconduct records, based on an investigation of sexual misconduct and the disciplinary records previously kept from public view.
Even though a database of teacher misconduct records may not have details about why a teacher has a discipline record, other public records can be searched to find more information.
UPDATE: With a hat tip to The Virtual Chase:
Vermont offers online access to teacher disciplinary actions since January 1, 2000. Records are listed alphabetically and can be searched by last name.
South Carolina offers online access to South Carolina Department of Education records, including case summaries. Search options include year, school district, school name, teacher last name and type of finding.
Texas offers an online search of teacher certification status by name.
Many online government records, including teacher certification records, are available from the Free Public Records Directory. For example:
California has an online search of teacher credentials by name.
New York has an online search for teacher certification by name.