High School Grounds Worker Assault Case Proves that Threats are Still Finding a Way onto Campus

By Michael Klazema on 11/10/2014

One of the biggest trends in the background check industry over the past few years has been a campaign to make schools safer and more secure. In the wake of school shootings such as the December 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy, school administrators throughout the country went back to the drawing board. Their solutions and protections have been multifaceted, from locking doors to hiring security guards. Schools throughout the nation have also doubled down on background checks since 2012, implementing new screening systems for everyone from coaches to bus drivers to school visitors.

Even in spite of all this effort, though, threats are still finding a way onto school campuses. That much was proven by a recent incident at New Deal High School in Lubbock, Texas. There, a grounds worker was arrested for allegedly assaulting a student. The student was not seriously injured, and the incident did not involve firearms or any other deadly weapons. However, it was a scare that caused some to question the school's background check policies.

The grounds worker in question was not an employee of the school. Rather, he was employed by a third-party contract company, entrusted with school maintenance issues. The worker was arrested after an alleged physical altercation between him and a senior student. Sources say the grounds worker punched the student.

The superintendent for the New Deal Independent School District said that state law requires all district workers and volunteers to undergo background checks. He said that the grounds worker in this case must have passed a background check since he wouldn't have been allowed to work on campus otherwise. Whether the background check was run by the school or the contracting firm, though, is unclear. Also unclear is what type of background check was run, and whether the school district and the contracting firm would have followed similar screening policies.

Even without knowing precisely which background checks were run, though, it's clear that New Deal is a school that takes the safety of students seriously. The school district, like several others in Texas, participates in the school marshal program. That means that numerous educators working for the school district have been trained to use and carry firearms. The theory is that these armed teachers would be able to defend the school if any serious threat arose.

Still, it's clear that schools have to be a bit more vigilant about who they bring onto their campuses if incidents like this particular assault case are still happening. Perhaps an extension of the existing screening program that extends to the contingent workforce. Or maybe personality assessments could help keep volatile individuals out of school-related employment positions. Schools spend a lot of time and resources making sure they have the right teachers and administrators onboard: they shouldn't do any less for contract workers.


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