School Board Considering Stricter Teacher Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 9/3/2012

The Duval County school board in Florida is reviewing its hiring procedures due to two separate incidents of school district teachers arrested for molesting students. Last year, Southside Middle School teacher Robert Luke was charged with sexual battery of a 15-year-old student. More recently, Christopher Bacca, a teacher at Windy Hill Elementary School was arrested for the sexual molestation of a student under 12. Bacca is currently facing several charges of molestation, while Luke has yet to be sentenced for his charges. Both teachers initially passed background checks with the school district, even though they each had been investigated previously due to allegations of misconduct with children without being charged.

The human resources director of Duval school district, Sonita Young, had several recommendations for changing hiring practices within the district. Those included better inter-agency communications, review of training requirements, and actions to strengthen the background check process. School board member Becki Couch agrees that there should be “very tight policies in place” for district employees, and that they are the same “throughout the district.” Although school board members are unsure what the impact of the new rules will be, the hope is that the tighter regulations will do more to protect children within the district.

Parents of students from Windy Hill Elementary are wondering why the school allowed Bacca to teach there, after the first investigation into his alleged misconduct. Parent Eliza Morales is concerned because her sons went to a camp program Bacca was leading. Officials from the school said they are reviewing how the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Children and Families communicate with the district. They will also review policies with the contractor that provides substitute teachers to the school district. The school board is also considering taking teachers out of the classroom for misconduct, even if they are not charged with a crime. Morales is glad school officials are taking steps to address the problems. She said, “As parents, we have to do our own background checks,” and the “incident [has opened her] eyes.”

When it comes to the safety of students, every precaution should be taken to assure their best interests are being met. Nothing less than the highest standards of screening should be expected. If your business employs individuals that have access to children, you need to make performing comprehensive background checks a part of your routine hiring policy. By using a reputable company like, you can be assured you are getting the best and most thorough background check screening techniques available. With access to countless criminal databases nationwide they have many options available, several with instant results. Their US OneSEARCH gives you instant information from more than 430 million criminal records from counties, Department of Corrections (DOC), Administration of Courts (AOC) and State Sex Offender Registries covering 49 states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. Also included are national and international terrorism sources, more than 11 million photos, and their proprietary database of previously completed reports. Or try their Ongoing Criminal Monitoring tool, which allows you to automatically run a continuous background check against a name and date of birth. You will be notified via email of any new information that may appear on their record. They will run the name for one year and remind you when it is time to renew the monitoring, plus you can remove the name from being monitored at any time.

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