An English teacher at Wisconsin’s Rhinelander High School was recently arrested on charges of felony theft and drug possession, leading parents of the school’s students—as well as members of the school district board of directors—to wonder how the man’s initial background check had come back clean.
The 35-year old teacher was a fairly recent addition to the Rhinelander School District staff. He was still in his first year at Rhinelander High School. According to a Wisconsin Radio Network interview with Kelli Jacobi, the Rhinelander School District Administrator, he had come highly recommended prior to his employment, with “glowing references” that posited him as a standout applicant.
During the Wisconsin Radio Network interview, Jacobi did not mention how the teacher's skills had been received at the high school during the first few months of his employment, nor did she comment on whether or not she believed his references to be falsified. However, the district administrator did indicate that she expected him to be dismissed as a school district employee, regardless of what happens with his current criminal charges.
Of course, the school has reason to be suspicious of him, whether or not he has exhibited strong classroom rapport with students. According to the Wisconsin Radio Network report, he was found to be in possession of marijuana and stolen or illegally purchased prescription drugs, as well as approximately $9,000 worth of computers and other technological equipment that had recently gone missing from Rhinelander High School.
The teacher’s preponderance of marijuana plants—police found more than 60 of them—may indicate that he was planning on distributing the drugs, possibly among a high school market. Ultimately though, the alleged computer theft will very likely be what gets him fired from his job at Rhinelander and into major trouble with the law.
For Jacobi and the rest of the district, the teacher’s alleged offenses came as quite a surprise, largely because his background check from earlier this year had come back mostly clean. During the Wisconsin Radio Network interview, Jacobi did not reveal the nature of the background check that he had been subject to, only revealing that the screening process had had several apparent blind spots.
Aside from a teenage marijuana possession charge and a recent driver’s license suspension, the initial background check returned nothing out of the ordinary. More thorough searches have since uncovered additional criminal charges, including numerous instances involving driving on a suspended license, willful damage of property, and disorderly conduct—all of which took place in the past three years.
Since it isn’t clear precisely what kind of background check the Rhineland School District used to vet this teacher, it’s hard to know exactly what practices the district could use to avoid a similar issue in the future. After seeing a teenage marijuana charge, for instance, the district may have initiated a drug screening check like the one offered through backgroundchecks.com. The backgroundchecks.com drug screening check uses a strong substance abuse testing partner to provide a convenient and intuitive online report retrieval system that allows for quick and reputable drug testing results. Aside from drug screening, a reference to blinds spots in the screening program could be indicative of a background check package that excludes key criminal searches like a county criminal history search or is purposely set to limit the scope of the search to just a single state of set of counties, rather than trying to cast a wider net through multi-jurisdictional searches using national criminal databases.