Criminal Background Checks: Not A Silver Bullet To Preventing Student Predators

Christopher Young, a former substitute teacher at a high school in Hall County, Georgia, was sentenced to 30 years in prison, followed by life on parole, after he was found guilty of aggravated child molestation.

Young met the victim while working at a high school. Young assaulted the teen, under 16, and took videos of the sexual acts using his phone. The abuse did not occur on school property.

According to school officials, Young passed a criminal background check before he started working. He had only worked there for four months, and occasionally at an elementary school.

The school affirms that every teacher, including substitutes, is subjected to a criminal background check. Mary Alice Royse Ginther "Former metro Atlanta substitute teacher accused of molesting student" https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/hall-county/former-metro-atlanta-substitute-teacher-accused-molesting-student-sentenced/FIFMM3BUR5GF3A6EN552ZEHLVI/#:~:text=According%20to%20Hall%20County%20court,at%20East%20Hall%20High%20School. (Mar. 01, 2024).

Commentary and Checklist

All states require criminal background checks on K-12 teachers. Most states require criminal checks on all employees. Criminal background checks are conducted at state and federal levels and these include state and federal sex offender registry checks.

There are states, however, that check further. They check the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) clearinghouse (GAO, 2014). This entity provides information about teachers who lost their credentials from child abuse or sexual crimes.

The perpetrator in the source article passed a criminal background check. Perpetrators without a record will pass a criminal background check.  What other steps can schools take to keep students safe from staff misconduct?

·  To prevent misconduct, make sure your school policies clearly outline appropriate boundaries for interactions between staff and students.

·  Be intentional in your hiring practices, and strictly follow a comprehensive screening procedure for all workplace participants, even those with personal recommendations.

·  Always include background checks, including criminal checks, child safety, and verification of certifications and personal references.

·  Establish clear behavioral guidelines and expectations, and hold all staff members to these guidelines regardless of their position.

·  Regularly train all staff members on your policies. Incorporate real-life examples when appropriate.

·  Require workplace participants to report any suspected staff misconduct.

·  Provide multiple reporting methods. Using a third-party reporting method helps achieve an objective and prompt response.

·  Incorporate into employee training information on your state's mandatory reporting laws, including when and how to report to your state's law enforcement.

·  Thoroughly document all procedures to promote student safety.

·  Make sure you have sufficient numbers of adults at all times to watch students, but also to observe how other adults interact with students.

·  Establish boundaries for digital communications. Do not allow digital communications between staff and students that do not include the students' parents and/or guardians.

 

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