When and Why Important Information Doesn’t Show Up on a Background Check

How thorough can a background check be? How much information can a background check pick up on? A recent article about parents in a Virginia school district requesting a more thorough background check on a teacher indicates that when a suspect in a crime isn’t arrested or charged in a case, that crime isn’t likely to end up on a background check – even if it’s possibly being charged in the death of a student.

For a summary of the article, Park View High School teacher Dawn Marie Hamilton has a past involving the death of a 14-year-old special education student in Texas, in which to subdue a student “acting out” in class, she sat on him and ended up killing the student. In Texas, she was not arrested or charged in the death of the student, although her name was put on a Texas list of names for charges of child abuse and neglect. However, when her teaching certificate expired, her name was removed from the state list. Five years later, she was hired in Virginia for a teaching position at Park View High and, although checking off “no” to the question regarding charges of child abuse and neglect on her application, passed her background check. In this case, Hamilton had gotten lucky to find a teaching position with such a past and, although she has had no issues in the Virginia school district, parents are now wanting the school district to conduct more thorough background checks on their teaching candidates.

Perhaps Hamilton had done the right thing for applying for a position and conducted her own background check first before applying anywhere and found that her past record had not shown in a basic background check. Still, should an individual with as questionable of a past as Hamilton’s be allowed to teach again? One question from the article is, why was her name dropped from the list of child abuse and neglect in Texas and, if her name were still on the list, would it still have shown on her background check? If Hamilton had listed a previous address for Texas, the information might have shown on a background check. However, a call to the Texas school district of Hamilton’s previous employment might have yielded this information or, in the case of a basic background checks, remarks from a previous employer should have been included regarding the incident in Texas and, in either case, the contradiction of Hamilton’s application and words from her past employer in Texas would be an indication that she doesn’t have a clean background to be interacting with students.