An in-depth forensic audit has shed light on a case concerning a charter school in New Orleans that is facing permanent closure, in part because of a series of falsified employee background checks. According to the audit, the charter school’s CFO had a template for falsifying background checks that she used multiple times over the course of her employment. The template is one of several problems that the audit discovered with the school’s process for vetting employees, per a report from New Orleans-based news organization The Lens.
We have explored this case on our blog in the past. James M. Singleton Charter School is a New Orleans charter school that is run by the city’s Dryades YMCA. In spring 2021, police began investigating the school after they discovered that a recently-hired employee had a criminal offense on his record involving a minor.
Under proper protocols, that conviction would have disqualified the staff member from employment consideration. The investigation found that the school had several employees on staff who had passed their background checks despite serious criminal histories. One of the employees with an overlooked criminal history was CFO Catrina Reed, who had a clean background check on record despite a past conviction for stealing from the bank where she worked.
At the time of this revelation, there wasn’t enough evidence to say whether Reed was responsible for the falsification of employee background checks. In the wake of the forensic audit, police arrested Reed and charged her with 12 counts of “injuring public records” and an additional count of pocketing the money that she claimed to be spending on background checks.
According to the forensic audit report, Reed created a Microsoft Word file titled “background check.docx”. She had revised, saved, and printed the file several times. It appears that the file was a template that Reed used to falsify background checks for teachers and other employees at the school. Auditors note that the document could have been used to create “the appearance that a legitimate criminal background check had been performed.”
Dryades YMCA is trying to use the forensic audit that it ordered to prove that the falsified background checks were not an institutional failing but rather the act of one individual. The YMCA’s charter to operate Singleton has been revoked by the Orleans Parish School Board. Dryades YMCA is fighting the revocation with a lawsuit filed against the Parish School Board. If the school is not successful in winning that lawsuit, or if the litigation extends, Dryades YMCA may have to close Singleton for the coming school year or permanently.
Thorough and genuine background checks for teachers are an essential step for every school and school district to provide a safe learning environment for its students. Read our blog about the most common types of employee background checks for teachers.
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