Who Needs A Background Check Before Entering Our Schools?

There is a nearly universal expectation that when we send our children to school, they will be safe. Parents put an enormous amount of trust into the people who are caring for our kids, some of whom (depending on their extracurriculars) spend upwards of 10 hours a day on campus.


 

Helping keep kids safe – especially while at school – via screening educators, staff and other personnel is part of our mission at Active Screening. That’s why we are stupefied when things like this happen.

Just last week, a local news station from Austin, Texas reported that a former high school track coach faces criminal charges for improper relationship between an educator and student and indecency with a child by sexual contact. While this is shameful enough, it’s even more troubling when you consider the same teacher was fired from his previous position after it was discovered he was sending inappropriate emails to a female student.

So, the question is: how did this teacher slip through the cracks of the current school district’s screening process?

The answer is surprising.

First, it’s important to understand how a public school employee’s personnel file is treated. A public school employee’s personnel file is public information for anyone who requests to see it. That file includes all sorts of information, including any disciplinary issues with that employee. But school districts may not ask for those records when they hire a teacher. Why? In the case of the Austin teacher, here’s what the answer is:

“The head of human resources at Pflugerville ISD says it’s not standard procedure among school districts to request personnel files. “The personnel file is voluminous and often does not have information of concern in it,” said Dr. Rhonda McWilliams of PISD.”

Second, some school districts may be operating under the assumption that a thorough investigation into the personnel files of new hires would take too long and slow down the hiring process. As long as a school district does what the law requires – in most cases: a criminal background check, a verification of a valid teaching certificate, and reference checks – then they have met the standards of on boarding a new teacher. The rub on that is that an employee’s personnel file may include other run-ins with the law, like offenses for drinking and driving or identity theft. Most employee personnel files only contain major offenses like abuse, sexual contact with a student, drugs or stealing money from the school.

Third, there is a way for a teacher to scrub his/her file, if he/she is being removed from a position for disciplinary reasons. It’s called a ‘separation agreement’ and it basically binds school districts from disclosing the real reason a teacher was fired. The agreement is usually something that happens to prevent a lawsuit or lengthy legal battle; the teacher agrees to resign and the school district agrees to put the details of the offense(s) into a confidential file that future employers might never get their hands on.

What can parents do about this?

Parents can do a little digging themselves into the backgrounds of teachers. In most states, you can submit a written public information request to the public information office of your child’s school district for the teacher’s personnel file. You can even ask for their service record which discloses all the positions they’ve held at all school districts in their career.

Also, find out who your school district employs to conduct background checks and what types of information they collect. You may find it’s not enough.

What can school districts do to improve their background checks?

The safest and smartest move any school district can make is to review their background check policies and make sure they’re meeting more than just minimum standards in screening. Take a look at what Pennsylvania is doing. The state is really setting the bar for other states to meet when it comes to protecting school kids from predators.

Partner with a nationally-accredited screening firm. Active Screening understands the dilemma facing school districts. You want to provide the best talent for your students and facilities for your educators and coaches, but budgets aren’t unlimited. You need to find smart, affordable, well-rounded solutions that mitigate any risk. That’s what we provide with our comprehensive screening solution for the education industry.

When you partner with Active Screening, you can customize your screening options from this list of solutions we tailored especially for the education industry:

  • Identity and Credit
  • Driver’s Records
  • Criminal Records
  • References and Credentialing
  • Substance Abuse Testing
  • Electronic I-9 Solutions
  • Global Solutions
  • Applicant-Entry Solutions

We love this quote: “The reputation of your school will hang on the credentials of your faculty, students and safety of your school.” We take our own words seriously and we are committed to partnering with you to ensure every aspect of your school is safe.

The Active Screening Advantage

Our team at Active Screening understands your expectations. We know how much trust you put into school educators and staff. And we’re here to answer any of your questions. Whether you’re a parent or a school administrator, let’s talk about the power of protecting our kids through exceptional background checks. Give us a call today. 1-800-319-5580.

This entry was posted in Background Screening, Clinical Services, Criminal Records, Driver’s Records, General, Human Resources, Identity & Credit, Industry Solutions, News, References & Credentialing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , by Patricia Carlson. Bookmark the permalink.

Patricia Carlson is a content writer who specializes in B2C and B2B inbound marketing. She blogs regularly for clients about the background screening and finance industries, and generates newsletters, white papers and email campaigns for a variety of businesses. Patricia also produces a heavy rotation of editorial material for home design, law enforcement, and family magazines. She’s been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, and for Active Screening for more than two of those. Check out LinkedIn for a roster of Patricia's clients and links to published works. When she’s not interviewing sources or researching trends, she’s living a fast-paced Florida life questioning the antics of her two young children, partner and mischievous cat. Patricia loves to talk tennis and TV on Twitter - give her a shout @pattycfreelance.
 
Active ScreeningBarbara S.
Healthcare Industry

"Here at Holland Hospital, we have been extremely pleased with Active Screening. The report results come back quickly, usually within 24 hours or less.  The staff at Active Screening is easy accessible, knowledgeable and responds to our questions promptly."

Active ScreeningLynn C. Staffing Industry

"Benton Mobley has been and remains my Main point of contact at Active Screening from the beginning; so aside from the comfort of dealing with the same person all these years, there is the most important fact of all;  customer satisfaction. Benton knows the business like the back of his hand; and that is what we need in our fast paced industry of staffing. He is the all-time BEST!  MY employer, Leslie, believes in the notion that great service deserves to be rewarded, so we are here for the duration.We get immediate and personalized attention for any and all concerns we need addressed, and in the staffing industry, this is vital."

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Active ScreeningCraig H. Staffing Industry

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Active ScreeningYulesis D.  Staffing Industry

“Interactive Response Technologies (IRT) has more than 2,000 employees at multiple locations across the United States. IRT has been using Active Screening to conduct criminal background checks since 2006. During this time, Active Screening has consistently returned accurate reports, usually with less than 48 hours turnaround. If there are any problems or inconsistencies with the reports, their staff has called to notify us so that we can attempt to rectify the situation. The staff at Active Screening is always courteous and congenial over the phone. In our opinion, Active Screening is outstanding.”

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Active Screening

With over 20 years of law enforcement experience I can attest to the fact that the strongest predictor of future criminal behavior is a person’s criminal history. As the manager of campus safety at my church, I depend on Active Screening to provide a thorough assessment of every criminal history background check we request. For more than 3 years, Active Screening has been faithful to this task with timely, accurate and reliable service.

Active Screening

We have benefited from knowing that we are not exposing the communities we work with or ourselves to unnecessary risk. We continue to have a perfect record in that we have never had a serious incident with a trip participant causing harm or acting inappropriately with any community member or fellow team member- thank goodness!

Active Screening

I would highly recommend any association or organization who conducts background checks to use Active Screening. In addition to my involvement with WAHA, I am an officer in a corporation with over 500 employees who provide treatment, mental health, and correctional services for children and adolescents. Our company is mandated by law to do comprehensive background searches and I can say with the utmost sincerity that Active Screening product rivals that of any government or other private sector process.

Active Screening

We have used Active Screening and their solution VERITY to screen all our coaches and volunteers working with youth. The online system gives us an easy and cost-effective solution to collecting forms and payments from our applicants...and we simply login to view the results of who passed or failed. It's so easy....thank you Active Screening.