Do All Teachers Have a Clean Background?

Do you know if every teacher your child sees in school has received a background check? And, even then, if their background has been screened fully? While, last week, we saw background checks through NASA that nearly violate a person’s privacy rights, some background investigations don’t dig enough – and miss crucial information. This information, in theory, should lead a candidate not to be hired, but a recent incident in Olin, Iowa, indicates that such important information may not always come up in a background check – and this puts students in jeopardy. How, then, should a school go about hiring a teacher?

The article mentions that the teacher in Olin was sent to jail after touching inappropriately a 15-year-old girl and sending her text messages. This particular teacher taught special education and girls’ volleyball at a high school in the town. Previously, however, this teacher held a position in Oskaloosa, where a similar incident happened in 2008 involving a 16-year-old girl. Instead of being fired, he resigned and, upon applying to the position in Olin, none of the 2008 charges came up in a background check conducted by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

How is this possible? Don’t all criminal background checks examine a person’s history as far back as seven to ten years prior? In most cases, yes, but an applicant, depending upon the background check given, might circumvent this information. Taking fingerprinting out of the procedure, an applicant might leave out his past employer or past addresses. But, another key point in this case is the teacher’s previous resignation. According to the article, personnel records from previous schools are confidential if a teacher isn’t fired. The teacher’s past crimes, at least from school records, were kept confidential, as he wasn’t fired. Nevertheless, this doesn’t explain why the 2008 crimes never showed up in a criminal background check.