Florida School District Hit By Damning Auditor General Report

By Michael Klazema on 4/1/2016
A school district in Clay County, Florida is in a bit of hot water over a recent auditor general report. The report cited a few major issues with the district, including a sizable lapse in employee background check policies.

According to a report from First Coast News, Clay County School District has 762 school employees who have not passed background checks or undergone background screening in the past five years. Florida state law requires every school employee—whether in a teaching position or not—to undergo an FBI fingerprint-based background check at the date of initial hiring. Thereafter, every school employee must be re-screened through the same system every five years.

Ongoing or repeat background check policies like this one are effective because they help to show a school's vigilance in keeping potentially dangerous adults away from children. Just because a person passed a background check at the time of their hiring does not mean that individual will never commit a crime. Repeat background checks keep employee criminal data current. They reduce the likelihood of an employer overlooking a serious charge that might preclude an employee from performing his or her job effectively. For a teacher, instances of violence, drug abuse, or sexual offenses are all charges that might mark that person as not safe or trustworthy enough to work with children.

By failing to update background checks, then, the Clay County School District is also failing to provide a safe learning environment for children—at least based on state criteria. Since the other major finding in the Auditor General's report was that the district lacked the appropriate emergency funds, safety truly is the primary concern here. "The District has had fewer resources for emergencies and unforeseen situations than other school districts of comparable size," the report said. Perhaps most damning, the Auditor General noted that a similar lack of emergency reserve funds was cited "for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years" as well.

Hopefully, the Clay County School District will be quicker about rectifying the background check issue than they have been in fixing the emergency fund problem. Failing to run repeat background checks is often viewed as a less serious problem than not running background checks at all. However, background check reports that are five years or older are simply out of date and don't reflect the latest information. Out of date background checks, in turn, can lead to the exact same types of situations as no background checks at all.

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