On November 23, 2013, a janitor at a Baton Rouge middle school allegedly pushed a 14-year-old girl into an empty classroom and forcibly raped her. The student didn't report the case for several months, which means the former janitor is only just now facing charges. The twist is that the 31-year-old African American man is already in the middle of a 10-year prison sentence for auto theft. In other words, the rape appears just one more crime in the life of a man who can only be classified as a criminal. And yet, he was allowed to work in a middle school, among students, and even passed a background check.
The question is, were the checks as thorough as they could have been? Or could better (or additional) screenings have flagged the janitor as a dangerous man and stopped the rape from ever occurring?
The janitor worked at North Banks Middle School, but he was not actually an employee.Rather, he was a contract worker employed by a janitorial company in the area called Millennium Consulting Network. That company, in turn, was contracted by Aramark, a firm entrusted with providing maintenance and janitorial services to the schools in the area.
In other words, the chain of responsibility for screening the janitor was a long one. With such a convoluted hiring chain, it would have been easy for background checks to go overlooked. That's not what happened in this case, though. On the contrary, Aramark was completely on top of things, and reportedly ran the same checks on the janitor in question that are run on all teachers in the state. These screenings included a fingerprint criminal check through the Louisiana State Police Department.
When Aramark ran a background screening of the janitor, the checks ultimately came back clean: the man had no criminal convictions on his record. As it turns out, he did have a number of arrests. both in the spring of 2011. One of the arrests occurred because the man was caught driving a stolen milk truck; the other came for possession of drug paraphernalia that suggested he had a habit for doing crack cocaine. Both charges were evidently dropped, which means they didn't come up on a background check. The man was hired to his janitorial position later in 2011.
Of course, no one can be blamed for not knowing about the man's arrest history. Per the EEOC, arrest reports should not be used to make hiring decisions because they do not prove guilt. Still, there were other checks that Aramark or the North Banks Middle School could have run to find out that the janitor in question was an unsavory individual.
For one thing, the man was facing charges for auto theft at the time that the rape occurred. He had been arrested for auto theft on March 31, 2013, and his sentencing hearing was set to take place on December 1. Would North Banks Middle School or Aramark have allowed the man to continue work had they known he was facing a felony conviction?
Furthermore, at his sentencing hearing for the auto theft crime, the janitor asked the court for leniency, saying that he was addicted to crack cocaine and needed to go to rehab rather than prison. He said that if he had been in the correct frame of mind, he never would have committed the theft. If Aramark or North Banks did regular drug tests on employees, the man certainly would have been flagged as a danger to students, he would have been dismissed, and he never would have had the chance to assault a 14-year-old girl. Schools may take criminal background checks more seriously than most employees, but perhaps they aren't the only checks that schools should be running.