Anchorage Teaching Assistant Arrested and Charged for Possession of Child Pornography

By Michael Klazema on 1/21/2015

Background checks are particularly important in schools, where they function as the most prominent safeguard for keeping child abusers, sex offenders, and other predators away from children. But what about people who make, distribute, and possess child pornography? These are predators who can often go undetected for many years, and whose background checks can come back clean as a result. And yet these individuals pose a huge threat, especially because many of them seek out jobs with schools or daycare centers for a chance to have closer contact with children.

Such was the case recently in Anchorage, Alaska, where an elementary school teaching assistant was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. The teaching assistant, a male whose age has not been disclosed, was caught with child pornography in an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United States Attorney's Office is handling his prosecution.

The teaching assistant, an employee at Huffman Elementary School in Huffman, was of course subjected to a background check prior to his hire date. The Anchorage School District, to which Huffman Elementary belongs, has a policy in place that requires every single district employee to undergo background checks. The district says that there were no indications in the arrested employee's history to indicate that he might be a predator. The good news is that the teaching assistant evidently did not harm or create pornographic images of any students. There was also no pornography on his school computer, suggesting that he confined his illegal habit to his residence.

Still, this case begs the question of what educational districts and youth-serving organizations can do to keep individuals like this outside the walls and away from children. Criminal and sex offender background checks are the norm now, but once again, many of the people who trade and possess child pornography have never been convicted of a crime.

As a result, these individuals often go undetected for long periods of time. Sometimes, they are arrested before they actively harm a child; other times, their indiscretions don't become evident until their interest in child pornography turns into something more obvious, like sexual assault, rape, misconduct, or abuse. Fortunately, the case in Anchorage falls into the former category. Unfortunately, there are others that won't.

There isn't much more that background checks alone can do. Pre-hiring screenings are doing their job and flagging people who have been convicted of wrongdoing in the past and were forced to register. However, many schools don't do regular repeat checks, which could be used to help hold teachers and other employees more accountable for their actions. Or perhaps what needs to be changed is the interview process, where tougher questions and body language observation could help flag applicants who have ulterior motives for wanting to work with children.


Industry News

Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • June 20 Repeat background checks are becoming more common, with companies in India leading the charge. What does this trend look like, and how can employers embrace it now to stay ahead of the curve?
  • June 19

    Every federal job involves a background check of some kind. These background checks and how they are evaluated vary based on job, department, and security clearance level.

  • June 18

  • June 14 Ban the box laws aim to improve opportunities for employment. Could they have the opposite effect instead?
  • June 13 Jacobs Petroleum Products is a regional petroleum company that operates throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland. Apart from their employees carrying much responsibility and have frequent contact with customers, the company’s hiring also tends to be segmented since individual store managers are responsible for hiring talent for their own stores. In this employment landscape, Jacobs Petroleum Products needed a reliable and effective way to screen its new hires for criminal infractions and other red flags.
  • June 12

    The University of Wisconsin System may tweak its hiring and reference check processes. The potential changes come after one of UW’s assistant deans was accused of sexual harassment.

  • June 07 Stories of abuse by coaches in youth sports leagues continue to crop up around the country, but rules and guidelines remain patchy and enforcement is often lacking. The struggle to implement an effective system continues nationwide.
  • June 07 Financial background checks, usually referred to as credit history checks, can be an effective way to find out if a candidate is fit to handle accounts, financial data, and other assets at your business.
  • June 06 The Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute recently commissioned a survey to find out how willing employers were to hire people with criminal records. The study indicates that managers, HR professionals, and employees themselves are becoming more comfortable with the idea of hiring and working with ex-offenders.
  • June 04 Are fingerprint background checks the gold standard for employee screening, or are they overhyped? We look at some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding these checks.