No Background Checks Let Sex Offenders Slip Through Cracks in Schools

How well do you know the teacher who instructs your child every day in school? But beyond your knowledge, how well does the school know this individual? According to a recent article by the New York Times, school districts may not know enough about their employees. As a result, sex offenders end up in front of classrooms and go on to commit the same crimes again. As the New York Times article mentions, the Government Accountability Office report examined 15 cases of sex offenders re-hired as teachers. 11 out of the 15 went on to abuse more students in their new positions.

The circumstances vary behind each instance, but one example stated in the article, about an Arizona school district quickly hiring a new instructor and not conducting a background check, indicates the importance of a background screening. The Times article goes on to further illustrate that standards for criminal background checks are not uniform in all states. In fact, only 38 states require criminal background checks in hiring teachers. This does not address, however, private schools and the depth of the background investigations.

Aside from criminal background checks, resignation is another factor in the re-hiring of sex offenders. The Times piece mentions that when a teacher is caught abusing a student and convicted, he or she is allowed to resign from the school district, and the school, in turn, writes a letter of recommendation.

What is the best approach to making sure convicted sex offenders don’t end up in front of a class again? As the evidence from the Times piece shows, more criminal background checks are necessary in hiring. No matter how quickly a teacher is needed, a school should not skip or shorten the background investigation process. Some states or towns require potential teachers to be fingerprinted for a national criminal background check, and such standards should be required by all states and school districts.