A recent incident involving the alleged assault and battery of a high school student by a substitute teacher highlights the need for careful interpretation of the results of background checks.
The incident occurred at Wilson High School in Florence SC. Adrian D’Angelo Smith allegedly grabbed a student by the throat in order to push that student down the hallway on May 24. Smith was arrested and charged with third degree assault and battery on June 12.
The school district was aware of Smith’s criminal background when they hired him as a sub in 2013, but not when they first accepted him as a volunteer football coach assistant in 2012. This was a violation of district policy, which requires background checks on all volunteers, including mentors, coaches, and chaperones.
The fact that Smith performed well as a volunteer by no means excuses the fact that the school did not properly vet him for that position. Had an incident occurred while Smith was a volunteer, the school district could have faced a serious liability issue related to their failure to properly use background checks to protect students.
Background checks, such as those available from backgroundchecks.com, help employers get a fuller picture of who they are about to hire. For example, US OneSEARCH.com is a quick and convenient national background check tool that can search a collection of over 450 million records culled from state and local databases across the country for criminal records associated with a given name and date of birth.
Smith was recommended for his volunteer role by the school’s football coach. School Superintendent Allie Brooks Jr said that Smith’s good performance as a volunteer was a motivating factor in hiring him on as a sub. It definitely played a role in how school officials interpreted the information revealed by Smith’s background check, which was conducted prior to his hiring as a sub.
Smith’s background check showed that he had been arrested six times between 2000 and 2006, and had four criminal convictions on his record. The convictions were all misdemeanors for offenses including criminal domestic violence, petty larceny, trespassing, and marijuana possession.
Like all employers, schools are expected not to automatically reject individuals with criminal records, but instead evaluate those records on a case by case basis and judge their relevancy to the position in question. After reviewing Smith’s record, school officials judged that sufficient time had passed since his last conviction for him to be reformed. His clean record while working with the football team was pointed to as evidence of this.
The school’s decision to hire Smith was entirely in keeping with their legal obligations, since the school district does not automatically disqualify any job applicants unless their convictions fall into the category of violent crimes as defined by state law. Had Smith’s domestic violence conviction been a felony instead of a misdemeanor, he would have been automatically disqualified based on this policy.
According to Allen McBride, who works for the local Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Assault, a misdemeanor domestic violence charge can be awarded based on minor or extremely serious violence. That’s why it’s so important to consider convictions on a case by case basis.
Smith has been released on bond pending a trial. He will not be permitted to serve as a volunteer this coming football season.
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Author: Michael Klazema