The Risks Posed by Indirect Hires and Volunteers

Schools, youth sports organizations, and many other similar bodies all face an immense challenge: how do they keep the children under their care as safe as possible? With threats seeming to come from every angle today, there is a major focus on creating and implementing policies that will prevent harm from coming to children. Unfortunately, the headlines haven't stopped, and in recent years there have been many controversies nationwide over lax policies, poor judgment, and frequent oversights.

In response to such cases, many school districts have created or strengthened their own policies to ensure that the hiring process produces only those candidates best suited to keep kids safe. In many school districts and youth organizations, it is now a mandatory requirement for those working with children to undergo a pre-employment background check. They may also be subject to ongoing criminal monitoring and other types of screening.

These safeguards establish a critical baseline of safety—but they don't always go far enough. In fact, it is surprisingly easy for some organizations to overlook potential threat vectors that could impact those in their care. Consider the case of individuals who are indirect hires or those working with an organization on a third-party basis. They may come from temp agencies, staffing networks, or a contracting company that supplies help on an as-needed basis. Volunteers, a common part of working with children, can also pose a risk.

In Toledo, Ohio, a recent news story highlights the dangers of failing to extend safety policies to indirect hires and others. A strength and conditioning coach hired as an independent contractor was fired after it came to light that he had been convicted for a sex offense related to minors nearly a decade prior. 

The school did not conduct a background check on such contractors, and the company that referred the man to the district did not do so either. Unfortunately, this oversight led to a new incident of sexual battery against a student. The man was arrested in June of 2022 and currently awaits trial. 

Although the school district's reasoning for the lapse was simply the fact that the man was not directly employed by the district, other jurisdictions have taken action to prevent such problems from occurring. By passing and enforcing rules that require all contractors and outside agencies working with school programs to also undergo background checks, it is possible to close this dangerous loophole. Enforcing the same expectations on indirect hires that teachers and administrators face is a key step towards making schools and sports organizations a safer place. 

While background checks cannot make predictions about how someone will behave in the future, this case clearly demonstrates what employment screening services can do. With such a major red flag in the man's criminal history, the district assuredly would never have agreed to allow him to work with children had they known. Without the opportunity to discover this information, major risks will remain.

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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