By Christopher A. Miller
One of the great ironies about the education industry surrounds how little attention is given to screening educators. The irony lies in the fact that teachers and their aids have an enormous amount of exposure to those who arguably need the most protection: children. School districts often do only the minimum required to conduct background checks and verify past employment. Unfortunately, unsavory details including criminal records, sexual harassment complaints and other crimes frequently slip through the cracks.
On February 27th, 2007, an investigative report from a TV news team in Pennsylvania uncovered a startling case. Police had been looking for a woman who had been charged with criminal conduct that included stalking, harassment and vandalism. After she ignored her court hearing, an arrest warrant was issued. The news team eventually found her: she was working in a preschool classroom. These types of cases are more common than many people realize.
Screening Educators For Student Safety
Because of students’ exposure to teachers, aids and other school employees, school districts have a high level of liability in the event that students are victimized. There are several cases in which teachers have been charged with assault, trafficking drugs and even rape. Students are particularly vulnerable. They’re entrusted to the care of school employees who are largely unsupervised. That’s why conducting comprehensive background checks is imperative in the education industry.
Screening Educators Reduces School Liability
Ensuring the safety of students (and staff) should be a top priority for any school district. If the hiring practices of a school don’t include stringent employee screening processes and a thorough background check for every new hire, that school runs the risk of being held liable when someone in their care is abused. That can lead to lawsuits and community distrust. For a private institution, it can decimate enrollment and eventually lead to the school’s closure school.
Ongoing Employee Screening
Many teachers and other school personnel have worked in their positions for many years. Because most schools neglect to perform ongoing background checks, these employees can hide criminal charges that were filed after their initial hiring. As a result, there are many teachers, aids and security guards who currently pose a threat to students and staff. To combat the problem, some states are beginning to require that school’s perform annual background checks on employees. Unfortunately, the screening methods that are used are often broad, imprecise and extremely limited in scope.
The Importance Of Screening Educators
Students naturally trust their teachers, aids and other personnel. This makes them even more vulnerable to employees who have the capacity to do them harm. The problem for the education industry is that the employee screening methods that are used don’t go far enough. The background checks are often limited by geography or category. This is why criminals often slip through the system and gain exposure to students. To protect students and reduce a school’s liability, it’s critical that exhaustive screening and background checks are conducted on a regular basis. If your school isn’t able to perform this level of employee screening, consider working with an experienced service who can manage the task effectively.