Cincinnati Arts School Failed to Run Background Checks on Employees

By Michael Klazema on 5/31/2015

A movement is sweeping across the country to implement background checks for all individuals who spend unsupervised time with children, be they full time teachers, daycare workers, bus drivers, coaches, or even school volunteers. However, at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, an arts school based in Cincinnati, Ohio, an internal audit has revealed that a significant portion of the staff was allowed to work at the school without background valid checks on file. Operated by the Cincinnati Public Schools district, the School for Creative and Performing Arts is renowned throughout the country and around the world as a place for the artistic development of kids and teenagers. The school, a K-12 institution, combines academic college preparatory education with an intensive artistic focus.

This new revelation about background checks could tarnish the school's reputation. However, as of yet it's tough to draw any hard and fast conclusions about the school, its policies for keeping students safe, or whether those policies are enough. The internal Cincinnati Public Schools audit discovered that 20 out of 28 "seasoned supplemental staff" members didn't have valid background checks on record at the school. However, according to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the principal of the School for Creative and Performing Arts has essentially dismissed the audit findings as a misunderstanding. Specifically, he said that the supposedly unchecked staff members taught at SCPA through a partnership with the local University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. The two arts institutions began collaborating last summer with the goal of providing a superior string instrument program for students at SCPA.

What this means is that the staff in question had probably already gone through background checks at the University of Cincinnati and were cleared to work with kids. That doesn't mean SCPA would have been cleared of their responsibility to run checks and have them on file. However, to muddy the waters further, SCPA's principal says that College-Conservatory of Music "eventually went through the background check process." Given his wording, it just seems as if they were not screened right away.

More information will help to shed some light on whether or not the School for Creative and Performing Arts made any major background check blunders here, or if the checks in question were merely filed improperly. However, the internal audit also raised other questions about the processes at SCPA that are question. For example, under current organization, the artistic director of the school has been able to create invoices, approve them, to submit them for payment, and access school funds all by himself.


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