A child pornography arrest puts a spotlight on possible problems with how school districts in Kansas screen prospective bus drivers and other personnel.
In early May, police in Topeka arrested a man who was wanted on child pornography charges in Texas. Just a few weeks before the arrest, Kelly Shane Hooper was hired by a private company to drive a school bus. Since the arrest had not yet been made when he applied for the job, Hooper passed his criminal background check.
Technically, everything was done correctly in this case. The employer did a background check, but since the arrest happened after the check was complete, the city almost had a predator on the payroll. There are several things to learn from this situation. The first is that one criminal background check at the time of hire does not protect you or the people you serve. Background checks should not be considered a “one and done” proposition, especially for people working with vulnerable populations. All employees should be rescreened periodically.
The other thing exposed through this arrest is the fact that Kansas might need to revisit its background screening policies when it comes to schools. Current law only requires criminal background checks for teachers and principals… they are not required for bus drivers, teacher’s aides, lunch personnel, secretaries and other non-licensed staff. That means all of these people who have daily contact with young children are not required to have any type of screening.
The Topeka Capital Journal looked into this screening gap and found that several school districts do take it upon themselves to do background checks on all employees and volunteers. While teachers are required to submit fingerprints to be run through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, it is up to each district to choose what screening they will do on other employees. School bus drivers are required to fill out a form asking if they have been convicted of any felonies or crimes involving a child. Answering yes, or having any violations on their driver’s license would disqualify them from getting a job, but the law does not require that those answers be verified.
We all know funds are always an issue for our nation’s schools, but some places you just can’t afford to skimp.
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