Employment Screening for Educators – Keeping a Safe Campus 6 Sep 2017


Is your school campus really safe? Whether you run a daycare or statewide university, minimizing the risk of safety threats is a top concern for administrators in today’s volatile environment.

What are the responsible steps that schools and other institutions can take to screen faculty and staff for potential red flags? And what can they do if they find any?

If you run any kind of educational campus operation, here’s what you need to know about employment background screening for educators.

A Common Mistake: Assuming that “one size fits all” for background checks:

Being one of the most scrupulously egalitarian departments of any business operation, Human Resources professionals live by the canon that similarly situated people must be treated equally.

That does not mean, however, that all employees need to, or should, undergo the same background checks. It is perfectly acceptable to screen directors more intensely than janitors. As long as all directors are screened the same and all janitorial workers are screened the same, there is a rational basis for the different levels of screenings.

The typical rule is that a higher degree of risk justifies and may even require a higher level of screening. When selecting packages that provide education background checks, HR professionals need to weigh the potential risks of the position.

Examples of positions with greater risk can include:

  • School bus drivers
  • Workers with access to student dorm rooms
  • Those working with vulnerable groups such as the aged, young or infirm
  • Those with access to personal or financial details
  • People who wear a uniform and can act under color of official authority.

These are all situations where people are especially vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

Of Special Concern: School Bus Drivers

Requirements for school bus drivers vary from state to state, sometimes resulting in lackadaisical and inconsistent hiring and tracking processes.

The minimum requirement for becoming a school bus driver is having a high school diploma and a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Many federal rules on interstate commerce that apply to a CDL holder, such as screening for medical conditions that could inhibit performance, don’t apply to most school bus drivers because they don’t usually cross state lines.

Only two states, Connecticut and Delaware, keep track of all school bus driver arrests on the job.

A former school bus driver in New York was charged in 2014 with three counts of forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a 15-year old girl with special needs. The defendant eventually pleaded guilty to assault. The sex offender had previously been arrested in 2013 on suspicion of child abuse, but a sloppy pre-employment background check had missed that detail.

Adding to the problem is a lack of school bus drivers, an issue reported by 90 percent of school districts in 2016. According to CBS News, one of the largest school bus companies in the country, Durham School Services, is resorting to hiring from Craigslist.

The Topeka Unified School District tried this and ended up with a driver who had fled from child pornography charges in Texas at the time of his hire. He was found guilty in 2016 on five counts of possession of child pornography.

A Problem That Has Some Clear, Direct Solutions

Schools typically perform the bare minimum, one-time criminal history checks for teachers and school employees mandated by state law. Red flags in the employment history of new applicants often go undiscovered, and crimes committed by school staff during the term of their employment can easily go undetected.

Schools can take a number of proactive steps to maximize campus safety and security:

  1. Go beyond minimum requirements of criminal history checks by conducting more detailed background checks which also look into employment history, past work performance, educational credential verification, and more detailed personal histories.
  2. Conduct periodic background screening for educators during the course of their employment.
  3. Establish policies requiring school employees to report any arrests for crimes to their employer within 24 hours.
  4. Identify the limitations of current criminal history checks (geographical areas covered, limited to only a select category or categories of school employees, etc.). Use background screening services which cover the widest available databases.

Employment background screening can take a number of forms that are of particular value to educational operations.

Criminal Background Searches can be done at the county, statewide and federal levels for a comprehensive look at any prior criminal activity.

Identity Check – A Social Security number verification is the best way to protect against fraud and identity theft.

Drug Screening protocols can be customized to your specifications.

Education Verifications are an absolute must for educational institutions.

Professional License Verifications not only confirm an applicant’s credentials, but you can also see whether any disciplinary measures have been taken against them in the past.

Drivers License & Motor Vehicle Record Searches will flag moving violations, license suspensions and other issues that affect staff whose position includes driving school vehicles.

Since screening is a knowledge-based profession that is heavily regulated, key criteria for selecting the right vendor should be the knowledge, training, and experience of the staff member serving your account, and understanding the methodologies and processes that go into the background screen you’re ordering.