One of tragic ironies of the education industry is that it often fails to properly screen teachers. For example, a study conducted in 2007 found that most Illinois teachers who were hired prior to 2004 were exempt from FBI background checks. These educators have a dangerous level of exposure to children. Consider that many of them could easily hide a criminal past.
Newspapers are filled with hundreds of cases in which educators are hired, but are unsuitable to have exposure to children. For example, a high school teacher named Jaime Katheryn Steen was recently jailed for distributing pornographic pictures to her students. George Tolbert, convicted of sexually abusing 2 children, served 4 years in jail, only to earn his teaching credentials and teach for 10 years. Chassappasi Rain, convicted of shooting 2 people in 1978, earned his teaching certificate in 1990 and found a teaching job in the Chicago Public School System.
Comprehensive background checks should have been performed on each of these people prior to hiring them as educators. By failing to screen them properly and allowing them into the classroom, school administrators are gambling with the safety of the students in their care.
Pre-Employment Screening For Educators
As the number of criminal cases involving teachers continues to escalate, state governments are starting to require pre-employment background checks. The problem is that the scope of these background checks is usually inadequate. They’re often limited to running an applicant’s name through an FBI database and doing a child abuse registry search. Not only is this approach plagued with problems (i.e. misspelled names, out of date profiles, etc.), but they often fail to uncover past criminal convictions.
School administrators need to implement more thorough pre-employment screening protocols. Even if funding seems to be a obstacle, it’s important to realize that properly screening teachers and conducting wide-ranging criminal background checks is relatively inexpensive. In fact, it can usually be done for less than what that teacher will earn during their first day on the job.
Doing the bare minimum when screening educators is no longer a viable option. There is simply too much risk to the safety of the students. Allowing convicted felons to gain all-day access to children is a recipe for disaster. In fact, the education industry has been buffeted by high-profile incidents for years. It’s time for school administrators to take control by conducting extensive background checks on all personnel.
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