Are Dallas Schools Missing Background Checks?

By Michael Klazema on 9/22/2014

Has the Dallas Independent School District been skipping criminal background checks on some of its key employees? That's a question that has been in the air ever since late August, when Jeremy Liebbe, who has served as manager of the school district's Professional Standard's Office, filed a complaint with the state about the district's background check policies. According to Liebbe, the Dallas Independent School District has failed to run criminal history checks on several hundred of its employees. Whether these employees are teachers, administrators, contractors, or other workers is not clear.

Liebbe lodged the complaint against DISD with the Texas Education Agency, which has said that it is reviewing the allegations and considering whether or not it will be necessary to launch an investigation into the complaint. Liebbe reportedly discovered the lack of background checks within the school district while investigating his boss, Tonya Sadler Grayson, to determine whether or not the district knew about her criminal history.

According to Liebbe, Grayson, who leads DISD's human resources department, had a misdemeanor conviction on her record for criminal trespassing. Liebbe wanted to know whether Grayson had disclosed the conviction on her original job application. While attempting to learn more about Grayson, though, Liebbe says he may have discovered several hundred district employees who were never properly screened prior to hiring.

It wouldn't be the first time that Liebbe had discovered a scandal while looking into something else.

Earlier this year, Liebbe was investigating the death of district football player Troy Causey, who died after a fight with a friend over a video game escalated into a fatal beating. The routine investigation into Causey's March death ballooned into something else when Liebbe discovered an illegal recruiting scandal within the Dallas Independent School District athletic department.

Liebbe's discovery led to an internal investigation into the department, which in turn lead to the firing of 15 coaches and administrators connected with the improper recruiting of student athletes. Causey was one of the young athletes who had been specifically recruited by the athletic department.

Shortly after leading that investigation, Liebbe was placed on administrative leave by DISD. The investigator thinks that his involuntary leave had something to do with his decision to investigate Grayson and report her criminal record to superiors. He said as much in a letter to district trustees, sent around the same time that he filed his complaint with the Texas Education Agency. Supposedly, Liebbe was worried that Grayson's misdemeanor charge could affect the reliability of her testimony on the athletic recruiting case.

Liebbe has since been fired, criticized for misusing background checks, and remotely accessing his computer while on leave, among other things. Liebbe, though, thinks that DISD is merely trying to discredit him.

It's difficult to know who to believe here, but one thing is for sure: the Texas Education Agency has not moved forward with an investigation into the Dallas Independent School District. Could Liebbe's firing, as well as the claims made against him, be an attempt from the district to discredit him? Did Liebbe indeed stumble upon hundreds of school employees who are working without proper background checks? Or were his complaints made to discredit the school district? Only time will tell, but hopefully the Texas Education Agency will do its due diligence in finding out exactly what is going on.


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