- from The Columbus Dispatch - "FBI's system for screening school employees is badly flawed"
May 14, 2003
By William L. Bainbridge
|School officials nationwide have been encouraged by state
and federal agencies and associations to rely on the FBI system of
school-employee background checks. Unfortunately, the process has resulted
in headlines that are sadly familiar: |
"Bus driver charged with sex
crime"; "Teacher uses false credentials to do it again"; "Coach alleged to
have sexual relations with players"; "Administrator charged with sexual
misconduct with student"; "Custodian molests boys."
|This is because procedures used by the FBI, its state counterparts or
other state agencies and local school districts to weed out sexual
predators, embezzlers and other threats to our childrenís schools are
easily circumvented. |
The biggest flaw is that nobody is confirming
the identity of the people being fingerprinted to receive licenses and
certificates that qualify them to work with our children.
Columbus Division of Police technical services bureau provides
fingerprinting services for people applying for all sorts of licenses for
agencies around the country, and it is well-aware of the ID problem. The
bureau distributes a simple disclaimer letter that reads: "The Columbus
Police Department provides the service of fingerprinting individuals
presenting themselves to us for various reasons. Although the attached
fingerprints were taken here, it is the responsibility of the employer to
ensure that the person we fingerprint is the same person they are hiring.
Fingerprinting cards should be completed with all information verified by
the employer (i.e., name, Social Security number, date of birth, place of
birth, etc.). It is not the responsibility of the Columbus Division of
Police to verify ID."
And I have firsthand experience with the ID
dilemma. I own property in a southern state, and believing that being
licensed as a school administrator there someday might be worthwhile, I
wrote to the education agency. To my amazement, the agency put me in
charge of managing my fingerprinting process and directed me to go to any
law-enforcement agency in the country, have my fingerprints taken and mail
the fingerprint card back to them. Thus, I easily could have altered the
document, and no copy of it was made.
No one asked for
identification. Any applicant could have been a convicted felon, and I
could have been his friend, relative or paid accomplice.
this is the fault of the bureaus, civil servants and law-enforcement
agents involved in the process: Itís the system.
At the very
least, what is needed is an independent validation of school employee
identity. Most school systems in the United States do not conduct thorough
background checks of their employees, including a review of records that
could reveal identity deception such as Social Security verification,
county courthouse criminal record searches and employee drug testing.
This issue has had extremely high visibility. In 1998, Dan Rather
featured a segment entitled, "Teacherís Pet" on CBSí 48 Hours. The same
year, NBCís Tom Brokaw presented a similar expose, "Making the Grade."
Both features addressed the abhorrent practice of allowing predators to
move from school district to school district and state to state. The
practice is so common it has a name: "passing the trash."
Nevertheless, most school systems have not taken advantage of
modern employment-industry data services.
Many crimes against
children could be avoided if schools would adopt reliable tools to verify
information on prospective employees. The challenge to parents and
guardians is to find out if their children attend schools where employees
are screened and properly identified via other than flawed federal and
is Distinguished Research Professor at the
University of Dayton and is President & Chief Executive Officer
of SchoolMatch®, a Columbus based educational auditing, research, data