State education officials revoked the licenses of 22 teachers last year, 13 of whom were accused of sexual misconduct, according to an Albuquerque Journal report last week. But since Jay Quintana isn’t on that list, one must wonder if there should be more.
Quintana, the former Robertson High School coach and teacher charged with having sex with a female student over a four-year period, still has his teaching and coaching licenses — and got a job as a substitute teacher in Santa Fe. That’s disturbing, because even if he’s innocent of the charges against him, as long as his criminal case is pending he shouldn’t be allowed in the classroom. Allowing anyone to teach under such circumstances usurps the notion that keeping our kids safe from predators is a priority at our schools. It’s the same reason why police officers, if charged with a crime, need to be taken off the streets until their case is resolved.
Moreover, it’s perplexing that the Public Education Department would even allow such a thing to happen. Sure, the Santa Fe school should have done a background check (we’re assuming it didn’t), but PED should have resolved the circumstances of Quintana’s license long ago. Criminal charges and a lot of media attention have been hanging over this case for two years now, and yet PED tells us their ethics investigation is “continuing.” By way of an explanation, PED spokesperson Beverly Friedman (who was obviously being coached by PED attorneys) told us this case is “complicated by ongoing criminal and civil litigation.”
Say what? Is the PED saying it can’t pursue a license revocation as effectively when the allegations are so serious as to warrant criminal charges? If so, than a criminally misbehaving teacher has a better chance to continue teaching than someone who has a simple lapse of judgment but commits no crime.
After explaining in great bureaucratic detail why such cases can take up to a year to complete, PED gives us a pretty good idea as to how an alleged child rapist could be allowed to keep his teaching licenses, thus giving him the opportunity to go to another town and do a little substitute teaching. We can only conclude that it’s bureaucratic ineptitude, and it begs the question: How many other teachers facing criminal charges are still being allowed in the classroom?
For such a high-profile case to fall through the cracks is inexcusable, pure and simple.
Then comes the politics, as the PED “explanation” continues: “Under the leadership of new PED Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, the Department is conducting a review of all divisions and bureaus including the ethics bureau. We are committed to exploring ways to expedite these investigations. The safety of the children in our schools is our number one priority.”
Wow. There’s enough spin in that statement to complete a rinse cycle. How about coming clean with a statement like, “We screwed up. The fact that Jay Quintana was able to get back into the classroom while criminal charges were pending is proof of that.”
Excuses we don’t need. But that’s pretty much all we got from PED.