Editorials

Has your child’s teacher been accused of a crime? Missouri makes it tough to find out

James Russell Green Jr.
James Russell Green Jr.

James Russell Green Jr. worked as a teacher and coach for more than 20 years at numerous local schools in two districts.

He was a Boy Scout leader. And a swim coach at Hallbrook Country Club.

Now authorities allege that while he was building that career, he also was committing heinous crimes against some of the children he coached and taught.

Twenty years. Green had access to hundreds, if not thousands of children. A nine-count indictment alleges acts against seven children, including secretly filming them while they undressed to shower, producing child pornography and attempting to lure a victim into illegal sexual activity.

The case is every parent’s nightmare.

Could more have been done to stop this man sooner, before he harmed other children? And how was he able to evade detection, landing jobs at multiple schools?

In Missouri, there is no publicly accessible site where people can check reprimands or revocations of teachers’ licenses. The names of teachers whose licenses are in question are listed on the agenda when they come before the state board of education, along with a general description of the reason for the scrutiny. But someone would need to watch those listings regularly to find a particular name.

Even worse, the state board currently can’t meet or act on any issue. It lacks a quorum because the legislature has declined to confirm Gov. Eric Greitens’ nominees amid valid questions about whether they lack independence from the governor.

In Kansas, the system is far more open and transparent. The state lists actions taken against licensed teachers on the department of education website.

Green, 53, worked at Oak Park High School, at middle schools in the North Kansas City School District and at Blue Springs South High School.

Since the early ‘70s, teachers and administrators have been required to pass along information to authorities when suspicions surface and allegations are made. And yet, enough predatory teachers have been able to move from district to district or state to state after being accused of horrible crimes against children that the practice has a name: Pass the trash.

Sometimes, allegations aren’t thoroughly investigated or proven. The person agrees to move along, possibly putting other children at risk.

More must be done to assure parents that all loopholes are closed to predators. Being cleared publicly is also a service to those who are wrongly accused.

But protecting children should be the priority. And forcing Missouri parents to search court records and meeting agendas to find essential information about their children’s teachers is unacceptable.

Transparency is essential, particularly when our kids’ safety is at risk.

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