Employees & Volunteers Face Stricter Background Checks at Hernando County Schools than Elsewhere in the State

By Michael Klazema on 10/28/2013

Pastor Clarence Clark is a big part of the reason why the Hernando County School Board in Florida is now considering removing some of the extra restrictions included in its background check policy. After a long history of volunteering, mentoring, and coaching in the district, logging thousands of hours since 2000, Clark was told he could no longer interact with kids after failing a background check in May of 2013.

The criminal background check on Clark revealed a guilty plea for charges of grand theft and uttering a forged instrument. Clark stole three checks from his employer, cashed one for $450, and tried but failed to cash another. All of this took place in 1996. Clark has always been open about his past and admits that though he was a drug addict in 1996, he has since cleaned up his act. Many members of the local community agree. In fact, Clark might make a better role model for kids than someone with a clean record precisely because he has overcome these challenges far in his past they say.

Clark’s case brought the district’s overly strict background check rules into the public eye. The district’s policy adds five extra disqualifying convictions to the state’s background check policy: felony possession of a concealed weapon, misdemeanor drug possession, misdemeanor assault and/or battery, animal cruelty, and certain frauds and thefts. According to the district’s safety and security manager, Barry Crowley, these extra requirements are causing some issues in practice. For example, Crowley stated that some teachers are legally permitted to work in the schools, but can’t serve as volunteer tutors after school. Also, Crowley said that some existing employees have not been made to comply with the expanded background check policy, which seems unfair.

It is of course understandable for the district to want to take every possible measure to protect the kids in its care. Using a background check is an excellent step towards this goal, but the results of the background check need to be considered case by case and for each individual uniquely. A national background check product like the US OneSEARCH check from can instantly reveal public criminal records associated with an individual’s name and date of birth, but it is up to the employer (or the school officials) to review these records and determine the bearing any convictions may have on the individual’s ability to safely perform the job in question.

Upon hearing of the controversy surrounding the district’s new background check policy, state officials released a statement urging the district to abandon the extra restrictions and adopt the uniform screening standards established by the Department of Education in Florida. School board members in Hernando County seem willing to follow the state’s mandate and relax their background check requirements. As board member John Sweeney put it, “We went above and beyond when it was permitted, and it was understandable. Now it’s not, and we’ll follow the law.”


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 20 Employers who use E-Verify must follow the proper steps and procedures when they receive a “tentative non-confirmation notice” from either the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security. Failure to follow the proper procedures can cost employers both time and money. 
  • March 20

    Four Department of Commerce employees are out after their background checks resulted in security clearance denials. All four had worked high-ranking positions for months despite incomplete background checks.

  • March 15 As more states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, they contend with the emergence of new industries surrounding marijuana cultivation and production. 
  • March 14 In most cases, it is easy to determine where an issue might show up on a pre-employment background check. Citations for traffic violations or reckless driving charges will appear on a motor vehicle record check. Verdicts in a civil court case will show on a civil court background check. And criminal convictions—from petty theft to violent felonies—show up on criminal background checks.
  • March 13 How many years back do employment background checks go? This question can have multiple different answers depending on the situation.
  • March 13 A new bill in Florida would require landlords of apartment complexes to present tenants with verifications of employee background checks to give them peace of mind the people working in and around their homes are trustworthy.
  • March 08 Police officers working with the University of Texas at Arlington recently arrested a man who had avoided police capture on a warrant out of Oregon for nearly two decades. The man, whose real name is Daniel Charles Ray Hanson, spent those 17 years using a variety of fake names and identification documents to move around the country, often engaging with educational institutions under false pretenses. Police say Hanson regularly went by at least three different aliases. He sports a rap sheet that stretches back to an arson conviction in 1995. 
  • March 07

    The Future of EEOC Guidance in Texas Is Up in the Air

    The EEOC issued guidance in 2012 warning employers about the dangers of enforcing categorical policies to bar candidates with criminal histories. That guidance is not enforceable in Texas thanks to a recent court ruling.

  • March 05 Vermont is the latest state to restrict employers’ access to and use of social media accounts of employees and applicants. 
  • March 01 In an age of "industry disruptors" turning established business models on their heads, companies such as Uber and Lyft rely on a unique workforce of individuals outside the traditional employer-employee context. Uber calls them "partners" while other businesses refer to them as "independent contractors," the official classification these individuals use for tax purposes. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed they had warned a business, Postmates, for misclassifying their staff as independent contractors. In the NLRB's determination, these individuals were employees.