Background Checks Required for OU College of Education Students

By Michael Klazema on 8/28/2013

Last semester, OU student Christopher Flores was charged with lewd acts against a child during the field teaching required for his major. This incident has left OU College of Education administrators searching for ways to prevent similar incidents in the future.

According to College of Education Dean Gregg Garn, the college used to rely on a university-wide requirement for students to self-report their own criminal backgrounds as a means of ensuring that the students were qualified to train as teachers. There was no separate background check requirement or questionnaire required for admission into the College of Education.

However, steps were taken to protect any children that that students might come into contact with during their field work. Before students went out into the teaching field in any capacity, they had to sign a special form swearing that they met the same standards as any professional teacher, and before students were entrusted with their own student teaching project, they did have to pass a criminal background check.

A criminal background check for student teachers would be used to weed out students whose criminal histories indicated that they might be likely to harm children. However, the background check obviously will not be effective against students who may wish to harm children, but have never before been caught or convicted of a crime.

This may have been what happened in Christopher Flores’ case. The university said that he allegedly committed his crime while teaching in the field, so presumably this means he would have had to complete and pass the background check required for student teaching.

Another possibility is that Flores’ background check may not have been sufficiently thorough to identify all criminal records. The university has not specified what type of background check was used. In some cases, organizations that use state-based background checks end up missing criminal records from jurisdictions outside that state. It is much better to use a comprehensive national background check product such as US OneSEARCH from This tool compares an individual’s name and date of birth against a collection of over 450 million public criminal records taken from state and local databases across the country to ensure that no relevant public information is left out of the background check report. US OneSEARCH returns results almost instantly and is usually less expensive than a state-based check from a law enforcement agency.

In response to the Flores incident, administrators are now requiring that all students wishing to study education pass a criminal background check prior to enrolling in the College of Education. Hopefully, this new policy will provide children with added protection from predators during all teaching events that OU students participate in, not just during student teaching.

Students seem to be supporting the background check requirement so far. One early education major said it makes sense for education students to have to meet the same requirements as any child care worker or teacher from the very start. She doesn’t believe it will have any effect on enrollment. “People who are passionate about education will not be deterred by extra safety precautions.”


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