Following news that a Topeka, Kansas school bus driver was arrested on child pornography charges, everyone from parents to state news outlets are wondering what steps are taken to prevent child predators and other criminals from securing such positions. The charges come not from Kansas, but from Coryell County, Texas, where an active warrant was out for the suspect's arrest. The man fled from Texas to Kansas after learning that he was wanted on child pornography charges. In other words, there was an active warrant out for his arrest when he was hired in April as a bus driver by the Kansas-based company, Durham School Services.
According to Durham School Services, the suspect actually was subject to an employee screening process prior to his hire date. In a statement made to the media, Durham said that all bus drivers go through a "stringent hiring process," including "drug an alcohol testing, driving record and background checks, and medical exams, among other screening tools." The statement also noted that the company "meets State and Federal mandates for school bus driver screening; an interesting point, since Kansas has no state laws on the books requiring school bus driver background checks. The Kansas Department of Education does have stringent screening requirements for teachers, including fingerprinting and background checks through the Kansas Bureau of Investigations. Some other staff members, though, like teacher's aides, bus drivers, or contractors, are not legally required to face background checks. It's up to the school district to decide who gets a background check and who doesn't.
In this case, it was up to the third-party company that actually employed the bus driver. Many public school districts, not just in Kansas, but throughout the United States, as well, contract bus services through outside firms. Some schools take steps to make sure these firms are running background checks on their bus drivers, while others might run their own background checks on drivers assigned to school bus duty. It's not clear exactly how things worked in this specific case, though there's no reason to assume that Durham School Services are lying when they say that checks were conducted.
What is in doubt is whether the checks were thorough and comprehensive enough. Did the screenings reach beyond state lines? Did they assess the suspect's address history to see where he had lived before? Did they include reference checks, or calls to previous employers, to learn why the man left Texas so promptly? Had these precautions been taken, Durham School Services might have been able to formulate a more comprehensive profile of the person they were hiring, or to learn about the things he had done in the past. However, without a state law regulating school bus drivers and calling for certain types of background checks, it's easy to see why such "above and beyond" measures weren't taken.
At backgroundchecks.com, situations like this are why we always encourage our clients to look beyond the current county or state lines where somebody lives or is being employed when running background checks. Just because someone is clean according to local court records or state repositories doesn't mean they are not hiding a criminal past elsewhere. In this case, an address history search could have determined that the suspect previously lived in Coryell County, Texas, and a comprehensive criminal search could have revealed the warrant for his arrest.
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