Knox County Schools Missed Series of Incidents in Background Checks

Jason Morris

‘Public trust’ employees ace more background checks than many job applicants. But in two hours digging, Volunteer TV News has uncovered a series of incidents dating back to 1995 that, some say, should have raised serious questions to most anybody considering putting Mark Stephen Foster–in charge of 8-and 9-year-olds as fourth grade teacher at Inskip Elementary School.

Terry Mullins says he’s known several people who have shifted career paths drastically once they hit middle age.

But he believes 48-year-old Mark Stephen Foster is a special case.

“I couldn’t possibly imagine how he could go from being a machinst into being a classroom with children,” Mullins says.

That’s why he finds is difficult to believe the fourth grade teacher charged with shooting two principals at Knox County’s Inskip Elementary school, is the same Mark Foster Foster he claims turned violent after being fired for missing too much work at Oak Ridge Tool and Engineering in 1995.

“He actually did threaten my life,” Mullins says.

“Had Oak Ridge Police not intercepted him, I might not be here.
I asked him, with a therapist present, what he would have done had my family been with me if he’d been able to confront me. He looked me straight in the eye and said, I would have kiled them also.”

Mullins says Knox County Schools never called him for a job reference before administrators hired Foster to teach at Inskip in June 2008.

“Many times people are reluctant to divulge the full gamut of their feelings about an individual,” says attorney Rick Hollow.

“They’re afraid of being sued, so many will tell you no more than
when an applicant began work, and when he or she left employment.”

Hollow says that leaves employers few options beyond utilizing public records to conduct more thorough background checks.

Knox County Schools submits applicant’s fingerprints to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, checks for complaints of abuse with the Department of Children’s Services, and requires a drug screen, according to Superintendent Dr. James McIntyre.

“He (Foster) came up clean,” Dr. McIntyre says.

“Probably most prospective employers do not go that far to check incident reports,” Hollow says.

‘Incident reports’, as law enforcement agencies describe them, are written accounts of investigations in which the findings do not result in criminal charges.

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Jason Morris

President & Chief Operating Officer at EmployeeScreenIQ
A veteran screening and risk management professional, Jason Morris founded EmployeeScreenIQ in 1999 and acts as the company’s chief operating officer and president. Morris is a frequent speaker delivering captivating, interactive discussions on background checks, global screening, recruitment and staffing. He educates audiences in best practice initiatives as they relate to organizational employment screening programs. Morris has been quoted in numerous business and industry publications including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, USA Today, New York Times, among others. He is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
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