Concealed Criminal History of Day Care Owner
November 19, 2012
While a great amount of confidence comes with conducting a background check on someone working with children, what happens if a criminal history was not found in the background check? This was exactly the case with Jessica Tata, who ran a day care from her home in Texas where a fire started and killed four children under her care, in addition to injuring others. When Jessica applied for a child care license in Texas she refrained from listing that she had a criminal past–a juvenile conviction from when she was in high school, which could have prevented the child care license from being issued. Ironically, the juvenile conviction was an arson related case as well. While a background check was conducted, no record was found.
Susan Lahmeyer, a former district director of licensing with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, stated that she was not sure why the juvenile conviction did not show up in the background check. It’s possible that the background check did not cover criminal records from that long ago, or perhaps it was not found because it was a juvenile conviction. In addition, Tata’s attorney stated that she might not have listed the juvenile conviction on her application as she thought that information was confidential.
At any rate, this case is another example that every background check, whether it’s for a daycare license or job applicant, requires a thorough and complete search, or there may be devastating consequences later. While an employer cannot be sure of the full disclosure from an applicant, it’s important to know that a criminal history may not be easily found. Tata has been found guilty of at least one count of felony murder with three other counts of felony murder pending in addition to counts for the children that were injured.
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