In a press release Tuesday, the Utah Education Association criticized a May 11 Deseret News story that summarized traffic violations ranging from driving under the influence to speeding by some Wasatch Front drivers education teachers."We have received phone calls from educators who feel the paper went on a witch hunt," said Pat Rusk, vice president of UEA, the state's largest teachers union.

"We don't condone speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or any other violation of the law. But, there is no evidence that traffic citations issued in the course of an employee's private life impair his or her ability to teach. To say that a person should not be able to teach driver education because he or she has had a traffic ticket is like saying that a person who writes an overdraft on his or her checking account should not be able to teach math," Rusk said.

"If we adopt a standard of perfection as the basis for judging teachers, who will be left to teach? The standard must be based on teacher performance in the classroom."

Calling it an unnecessary "invasion of privacy," UEA officials criticized the paper for attempting to show a correlation between off-the-job conduct and the ability to teach. UEA attorney Michael McCoy cited a 1967 Ohio case in which the court held that - while the private conduct of an educator is a proper concern to those who employ him - if his professional achievement is unaffected, his private acts are his own business and may not be the subject of discipline.

Despite recent attempts by the Utah Legislature to strip away educators' privacy rights, "we have fought against these bills and we have won," McCoy said. "We will continue to argue that an educator's conduct outside and unrelated to his or her teaching responsibilities should not be a basis for judging the educator's competence."

Deseret News Editor John Hughes commented: "The UEA does not question the accuracy of the Deseret News story. What it does challenge is our right to publish this material about public employees based on public records, and the right of parents and students to evaluate the record of those who teach drivers education. Obviously, we disagree on these fundamental principles."