Yesterday, we wrote a blog post about a woman who was fired from her job as a teacher’s aid at a school in Iowa after it was discovered that she was convicted of manslaughter in conjunction with the murder of 16 year old in 1965. Mainly, we focused on whether this woman, who seems to have lived a crime-free life since and held this job since 1998 should be able to keep her job.
We did however, speculate on how the school missed this conviction when they conducted an employment background check. And now we think we know why; they didn’t conduct a background check because they were not required to do so for a teacher’s aide by the state of Iowa. I’ll spare the outrage over why someone entrusted to the well-being of children wouldn’t be screened (it seems the politicians are already starting to do that) and focus on these comments from the state’s executive director of Board of Education Examiners.
“The system is built to have multiple checks,” said Duane Magee, executive director of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, which issues licenses to teachers, coaches, administrators and others.
“We do a fingerprint check through the FBI, we use Social Security numbers, we use names. If there’s false information, that’s going to get caught. If there are things in other states, that’s going to get caught,” he said.
With all due respect, I think the Mr. Magee is misinformed. As has been well documented on this blog and confirmed through the FBI, an FBI fingerprint check is not guaranteed to identify if someone has been convicted of a crime. Research shows that maybe 55% of all convictions get into their database. Same goes for a statewide search. It’s not a guarantee.
Now, to be fair to Mr. Magee, the only criminal background check that would be 100% guaranteed would be one where every single court in the entire country is searched under all names used by the subject of the report. That, however would costs thousands and thousands of dollars and could take weeks or months to complete. But, it boggles my mind that the schools who protect our children don’t adopt the strict screening measures utilized by a majority of private sector employers.
They should be conducting an Address History Search (aka Social Security Number Trace) to identify areas where they have lived and names they have used. The primary criminal search should then be conducted in each of those locations under each of the names identified. In most cases, that’s where the records would have originated. Generally, people don’t travel or go on vacation and commit the types of crimes employers would be concerned about. And in most instances if they did, they probably would have committed similar offenses where they live. But that’s where you can then apply a database search and an FBI check and a statewide search.
We can debate whether this woman should have been fired until the cows come home but this school was negligent in not upholding their promise to parents to take reasonable measures to protect their children. The Iowa school board ought to take a look at this and at the same time, understand what they’re guaranteed employee background checks will and will not find.