Chicago Public Schools recently announced plans to re-run background checks on roughly 45,000 employees. The wave of new background checks will cover teachers, coaches, volunteers, vendors, substitute teachers, and other people who “regularly work inside of CPS buildings,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Any employees or workers who do not meet the new background check requirements by the fall will not be permitted to enter school building for the start of the 2018/19 school year. The move marks the latest notable headline in a trend toward repeat background checks.
The CPS decision comes after the Tribune ran a damning investigative piece about the school district in early June. The article claimed the district dropped the ball in protecting students from abusive school workers. Some of the employees accused of sexually abusing students had criminal records that were overlooked by the district.
Previously, the CPS policy for background checks matched the common practice at many businesses, organizations, and institutions: running background screenings just for new hires. The district did not have a system in place for running repeat background checks on existing employees.
The district did have fingerprints on file for many of its employees so it could take advantage of the Illinois “rap-back” system. That process relies on state police to monitor fingerprinted employees at school districts statewide. State police are supposed to notify districts if an existing employee lands a new conviction. However, at least 30 percent of the CPS workforce has never been fingerprinted.
Going forward, CPS will change its policies. In addition to fresh background checks for 45,000 employees, the district will also fingerprint 13,000 employees and 10,000 vendors and volunteers. All told, the new background checks are expected to cost the district $2 million. CPS CEO Janice Jackson called the investment “important and necessary” to guarantee children stay safe.
At backgroundchecks.com, we always recommend that employers implement an ongoing background check policy. In some cases, that might mean re-running county and state criminal searches every year. In other cases, it might mean using our ongoing criminal monitoring program, which screens your employees through our US OneSEARCH database monthly.
Either way, it’s important to recognize that doing one background check during your entire relationship with an employee is not sufficient. Pre-hiring checks are a must for proper vetting and liability protection, but they only give you a snapshot of someone’s history at that moment in time. It’s all too easy to overlook convictions that happen after you hire an employee.
The decision at Chicago Public Schools to run new background checks on every worker will give the district a PR boost after the damaging Tribune investigation while helping identify red flags that have gone overlooked. However, it will also be a major investment. Most businesses don’t have the money to refresh background checks on every worker all at once. Having an ongoing background check or criminal monitoring solution in place could save your organization from a major financial hit.