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Posted: 5:47 PM- Sometimes it's inappropriate touching. Other times, it's a teacher who uses school computers to look at pornography. Occasionally, the offense is full-blown sexual relations between a student and teacher, such as in the case of former Cyprus High School teacher Christy Brown, who was sentenced to probation and fined Friday for having sexual relations with a 17-year-old male student.

Brown is just the latest addition to a growing, nefarious list. The Utah State Board of Education suspended or revoked 108 teacher licenses, including 57 for sexual misconduct, between 2001 and 2005, according to an Associated Press investigation. That means 52.7 percent of Utah teachers who lost their licenses were forced to surrender them for sexual misconduct, twice the national rate, according to AP.

Utah ranks 16th in the nation for the number of teachers whose licenses were revoked or suspended for sexual misconduct, according to AP.

"There are some [teachers] who are predators and don't get that this isn't their dating pool and this isn't professional conduct," said Jean Hill, a prosecutor who investigates such cases for the Utah State Office of Education. "They really aren't seeing it like we do." Hill said she's seen more such cases this year than usual, but she thinks that's likely because of increased awareness. Utah's rate also might be higher than the nation as a whole because the state has a broader definition of sexual misconduct than in some other states, she said. Still, at least five Utah educators made headlines this year for everything from inappropriately touching first-graders to sexual relationships with teenage students.

"The numbers are troubling," said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, co-chairman of the Legislature's Education Interim Committee. "I think the best way of preventing inappropriate conduct is catching it and punishing it, and that appears to be what we're doing." Teachers can be punished a number of ways. The school districts where they work can fire them, depending on the situation. The Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission also investigates such cases and recommends to the Utah Board of Education whether an educator should lose his or her license.

Teachers who have sex with minors can be charged criminally, and legislators passed a bill this year making it a misdemeanor crime to look at pornography at schools. "If a teacher is found to be looking at pornography on a school computer, they're immediately terminated," said Cal Evans, Jordan School District executive director for compliance and special programs.

But officials also make sure to handle investigations carefully to avoid implicating innocent people. The vast majority of the state's roughly 23,000 licensed teachers act professionally and appropriately.

Utah Education Association general counsel Michael McCoy estimates about a third of allegations against teachers aren't true. McCoy said he has worked on such cases for more than 30 years.

"Students are big time into fabricating things to get back at a teacher," McCoy said. Sometimes students are trying to take vengeance and other times they are being abused but not by the teacher. Accusing a teacher, however, can be a cry for help, he said.

Many other times students aren't just crying wolf. In serious cases, McCoy will recommend teachers not fight to keep their licenses.

"We don't want people who can't control their behavior in the classroom," he said.

Many of the offenses, however, fall short of actual sex. Sometimes, teachers grope or inappropriately touch students. Nearly 75 percent of the sexual misconduct cases in Utah involving students or other children involved physical contact, according to AP.

Other times a teacher sends a student inappropriate e-mails or flirts.

"Often, it's looking at pornography or boundary violations, when teachers don't understand they can't hang out with students and give them back rubs," said Carol Lear, executive secretary for the advisory commission.

Those are the types of things, she said, depending on the circumstances, for which teachers might have their licenses suspended. That means teachers could possibly get their licenses back after a certain amount of time if they've shown they've been through counseling and have corrected the problem. More serious situations can lead to license revocation, where teachers can't apply to get their licenses back for at least five years.

McCoy said a teacher who's had sex with a minor will never get a license back.

The state and districts, however, try to make sure such situations don't happen in the first place. Mike Fraser, executive human resources director for the Granite School District, said Granite uses videos, role-playing and instruction to help teachers avoid inappropriate situations with students. Jordan School District also trains teachers and administrators to look out for sexual predators, Evans said.

Districts do criminal background checks before hiring teachers, and the state consults a nationwide database when considering teachers moving here from other states.

Fraser said a teacher whose license was suspended at any point for sexual inappropriateness would have a hard time getting a job in Granite.

"How would you ever explain that?" Fraser said. "There's no such thing as minor sexual inappropriateness."

-- Lisa Schencker can be reached at" Target="_BLANK"> or 801-257-8999.