School Shooting Could Have Been Avoided
February 23, 2010
I just read a scary workplace violence story out of Knoxville, TN where a school teacher shot both his principal and assistant principal after his contract was not renewed. In the aftermath, authorities wondered what the school could have done to prevent this unfortunate incident. They conducted on a background check and it didn’t raise any red flags. Well, unfortunately that background check did not include past employment verifications or references. If they would have contacted the teacher’s most recent prior employer they would have found his former supervisor said that he threatened him with physical harm while in his employ.
We’ve recently spent a lot of time discussing how employers can avoid violence in the workplace (check out our white paper: Protecting Your Employees from Workplace Violence). One of the key areas for prevention is to conduct a thorough background check.
See this excerpt from a letter written by a Knoxville area human resources professional published on KnoxvilleNews.com:
As a human resources professional, I can’t imagine why his former employers weren’t called as part of his background check. References (which should include past employers) are a basic part of any pre-employment screening process.
When one of his former supervisors was interviewed on a local television station, he said Foster threatened him with physical harm. Why didn’t the person responsible for doing the background check on Foster know that?
On the day the tragedy occurred, Superintendent Jim McIntyre stated that, during Foster’s hiring process, nothing was discovered that caused alarm. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything in his past that would cause alarm. It just means that someone in the Knox County school system’s human resources department obviously didn’t do a thorough job, and they should be held accountable.
Parents have a right to expect that the individuals who are with their children for most of the day are stable and able to nurture them. Foster was teaching fourth-graders and yelling at them.
Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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