Most states have staunch policies in place for teacher and school employee background checks. But if school districts aren't actually complying with those regulations, then are they doing any good? That's one of the questions being posed by a recent incident in the south. According to the Dallas Morning News, the Texas Education Agency has called out the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) for failing to thoroughly comply with state background check laws. The violations in state policy may have left some schools in DISD with staffs that aren't as safe and secure as they should be.
Specifically, Texas Education Agency policy requires all school employees in the state to undergo a specific fingerprinting procedure. The procedure gives the agency the ability to run criminal background checks on employees, and to monitor those employees for any future criminal convictions. However, a recent investigation of the DISD, by the TEA's Special Investigations Unit, found that the school district had at least 60 employees on staff who hadn't undergone fingerprinting at all.
In total, 30 of these unchecked employees are on-campus police officers, while another three are security guards. In other words, the very people who are supposed to be keeping schools safe could be the ones jeopardizing it, simply because they haven't been put through the necessary screening steps. In addition, the TEA says that as many as 120 employees were fingerprinted "using a procedure that does not enable the agency to review their criminal records."
As a result of the oversights, the TEA wants the Dallas Independent School District to make a few changes. First of all, the school district will be required to essentially train a member of the hiring staff to oversee the fingerprinting process in a way that complies with state law. These employees who are in charge of the hiring process will be required to take a course with the TEA to learn the proper fingerprinting policy, and to ensure compliance.
Secondly, the TEA will appoint a monitor to essentially make sure the DISD is fingerprinting and background checking all employees in accordance with state law. The monitor will also make sure that DISD appoints proper staff to oversee the hiring process, and that those new staff members are properly trained, per TEA requests.
The hiring of a monitor is a fairly drastic step, and one that the TEA says it has never taken in regards to background checks or fingerprinting issues. However, if the school district has been sloppy with its background checks, then that directly puts students at risk. It's refreshing to see a state department stepping in, calling the district out on its mistakes, and taking the proper steps to ensure a safer educational environment for all.