Is it time for your school to review its policies surrounding teacher background checks? Two recent news stories concerning potential lapses in teacher background investigations highlight the importance of thorough background checks and regularly revisiting and updating pre-employment screening policies.
The first story comes from Union County, North Carolina, where a teacher and athletic coach was recently involved in a drug-related shootout. The teacher, Barney Harris, worked at Union Academy Charter School located in Union, North Carolina.
Per a report from Campus Safety Magazine, Harris was recently shot and killed by a drug cartel in a drug-related conflict. Police say that Harris and several others went to a mobile home in Alamance County with the intention of stealing drugs and money, at which point the shootout erupted.
The incident has prompted Union Academy to re-examine its teacher background checks. When asked about the school’s policies for vetting staff, John Marshall—head of Union Academy—said that the school has a policy of running thorough background checks on all teachers. Those checks include criminal record checks at local, state, and federal levels, as well as an ongoing background check system that notifies the school if an employee is arrested or charged with a crime in North Carolina.
In August 2020, that system flagged Harris for a misdemeanor charge: carrying a concealed firearm without a permit. Since it focuses on North Carolina, the system didn’t flag another series of charges Harris had been facing since September for the possession, delivery, sale, and manufacturing of drug paraphernalia in Oklahoma. That oversight prompted Union Academy staff to review its background check protocols and consider new security measures.
The second case comes from New Orleans, where a recent police investigation and legislative audit uncovered evidence of falsified background checks for school staff members. Run by the New Orleans-based Dryades YMCA, the school drew scrutiny when a district official learned that a recently-hired school employee had a criminal offense on his record involving a minor. The conviction should have barred the school from hiring the employee in question but didn’t.
That discovery led to a deeper investigation into past background checks, several of which were duplicated in audit files. Additional background history searches found that several employees who had supposedly passed their background checks to work at the school had criminal records that were not reflected on their background checks.
One of those people was CFO Catrina Reed, whose employment background check was clean but who pleaded guilty in 1996 for stealing from a bank where she was working at the time. It is not clear whether Reed was responsible for the falsified background checks or if others at the school were involved.
At backgroundchecks.com, we can help schools develop policies for conducting thorough background checks on all teachers and employees. From criminal history searches of county, state, federal, and multijurisdictional databases to resume verifications to ongoing criminal monitoring, we work with educational institutions to provide robust background screening solutions for every need.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments