By Greg Wright
MBA, CFE, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
Certified Fraud Examiner
Certified Financial Planner™
Last year USA TODAY graded Indiana an “F” on teacher background checks.
The DOE has had an opportunity to improve that grade; but, appears to have done llittle or nothing since that article was published.
While the Indiana DOE is responsible for verifying teacher’s degrees and licensing them, they do not check their background for felony convictions, sex crimes, inappropriate contact with students, etc.
The DOE maintains that background checks are the responsibility of the school districts. Not their responsibility! No sir. School district responsibility. Thank you very much.
I asked a large school district if the DOE is helpful providing guidance, a “best practices” model, suggested background verification vendors, etc.
What does the DOE do to help your school district avoid hiring pedophiles or felons? She said:
An Indiana DOE staff attorney said her main responsibility is to work on teacher license, suspensions, and revocations. Since 2013, the DOE revoked 48 teacher’s licenses for sexual misconduct with a minor and child molestation.
I asked if any of the 48 had a prior criminal history. The DOE did not know.
I asked if the 48 had undergone a background check before being hired. The DOE did not know.
Did the DOE analyze these teachers - these child sex offenders – to find out about their background? That information could be helpful in knowing if the current background checking process and teacher licensing process might need to be adjusted. Apparently, the DOE has no interest in learning how to keep child sex offenders out of our classrooms.
I was quickly diverted to their media relations department. They do not want to discuss this issue. It is the school district problem. Not the DOE’s problem.
Meanwhile, we continue to read about cases involving teachers and school coaches:
- A basketball coach from private school pled guilty to coercing a 15-year old into exchanging sexually explicit messages.
- Last summer a high school teacher faced charges of felony child seduction involving two female students.
- A few months ago police arrested a High School teacher on two counts of child seduction.
· Meanwhile, our state legislature has drafted a series of bills to – hopefully – lock this barn door. However, each suggested change keeps the responsibility at the school district level. The Indiana DOE is off the hook. However, are Indiana's school districts equipped to conduct a background investigation of teachers, coaches, and volunteers? Probably not.
It is easy to mess up a background check. For example, a few years ago an Ohio State University employee killed a co-worker and shot two others. Ohio State had conducted a background check on Mr. Nathaniel Brown that did not reveal that he had been in prison and had been charged with assaulting his girlfriend’s child.
According to prison and court documents, Mr. Brown’s birthday was June 5, 1959. However, Ohio State’s records listed it as June 4, 1959 – Only one single day difference! The Ohio State background check showed Mr. Brown had a clean record. One day made a big difference. One person died and two were wounded.
School Districts do little to verify full legal name, maiden name, date of birth, etc. They simply do not know how. Most checks of parents and volunteer coaches are done over the internet. The school volunteer can use any sort of name combination and date of birth to shield his or her past conviction of criminal assault, felony child seduction or rape.
How does your school district check out teachers, coaches, and volunteers? Is the Indiana DOE doing its job to protect your kid? How safe is your child while at school?