In a story that shows why background checks are needed for small businesses, WCCO-TV CBS Channel 4 in Minneapolis, MN reports that a sex offender who worked for a small business in Minnesota that provided bouncy houses and other fun inflatables at birthday parties and graduations was recently arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. WCCO-TV reports that the arrest that caught the owner of the small business, who was unaware that the employee was convicted of a sex crime in 1995, off guard. The WCCO-TV story is available here: ‘Sex Offender Case Highlights Need for Background Checks.’
The Illinois Senate has passed legislation – Senate Bill 2545 (SB 2545) – that would create the ‘Internet Dating Safety Act’ requiring online dating websites offering services in Illinois to clearly disclose if they perform criminal background checks on members, according to a press release on the website of the bill’s sponsor Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago). SB 2545, which passed in the Senate 42 to 9, will next move to the House, where a similar bill has won committee approval. The full text of SB 2545 is available here. Continue reading
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and three of the nation’s leading online dating websites – eHarmony, Match.com, and Spark Networks – have issued a ‘JOINT STATEMENT OF KEY PRINCIPLES OF ONLINE DATING SITE SAFETY’ that online dating providers should follow to help protect members from sexual predators through background checks, the California Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced in a press release on the OAG website. A copy of the joint agreement, which also aims to protect online dating website members from identity theft and financial scams, is available online at: http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/press/pdfs/n2647_agreement.pdf?. Continue reading
In a story first reported by WHP-TV CBS Channel 21 News in South Central Pennsylvania, Jerry Sandusky – the former Penn State University assistant football coach currently charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse in a Grand Jury Presentment (WARNING: Graphic Material) – failed a background check for a volunteer football coaching position at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania in 2010 after he did not disclose that he was under investigation for child abuse at a high school in another county in the state. Continue reading
According to a report in the Myrtle Beach (SC) Herald, the father of a former Middle School student in Horry County, South Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the school district that hired a teacher who had a sexual relationship with the man’s daughter, who was only 13-years-old at the time. The Herald reports that the lawsuit filed in civil court – which does not identity the girl or her father – states “the school district was negligent in both the supervision of its students and the screening of prospective hires,” and that the teacher also had sex with a student in Michigan before being hired by Horry County Schools. Continue reading
Child protection advocates are calling for background checks for workers with access to child actors after a recent Los Angeles Times article revealed that a convicted child molester who worked as a Hollywood casting assistant for the past decade once spent five years in prison for kidnapping and molesting an 8-year-old boy in 1996. The 35-year-old man currently is cooperating with a Los Angeles Police Department investigation into whether he complied with requirements for registered sex offenders and there is no evidence that he had committed any new crimes, the Time reports. Continue reading
A new class action lawsuit filed in federal court on August 23, 2011 underscores once again the importance of background screening firms following the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to the civil complaint for damages, a background screening firm allegedly reported sexual offender data on applicants based solely upon a name match only, without making any effort whatsoever to confirm if the data belonged to the applicant. The suit alleges that such a practice violated the rule contained in FCRA section 607(b) that a screening firm must take reasonable procedure to assure maximum possible accuracy.
Match.com has settled a lawsuit with a woman who sued the popular online dating site after she was raped by a fellow member she was linked up with for a date by pledging to perform background checks on all current and future members in order to screen out sex offenders, the Los Angeles Times reports. The woman’s assailant – who had at least six previous sexual assault convictions before the attack on her – has pleaded no contest to sexual battery and faces a year in jail and five years’ probation. Continue reading
According to a report in The Quad-City (IA) Times, a registered sex offender dressed in a Cookie Monster costume, handing out fliers to children, and posing for pictures with children at the Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport, Iowa was arrested on an aggravated misdemeanor charge after an officer of the County Sex Offender Task Force recognized the sex offender’s voice behind the mask. The Quad-City Times reports that the sex offender was convicted for lascivious acts with a minor, a 7-year-old girl, in 2005. Because of this conviction, the sex offender was not allowed to work or volunteer on the fairgrounds. Continue reading
The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report to the Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives that revealed high rates of employees in all sorts of positions at both public and private schools – including teachers, volunteers, aides, support staff, and contractors – who had records of inappropriate sexual conduct and convictions for sex-related crimes.
The GAO report dated December 2010 – ‘K-12 EDUCATION – Selected Cases of Public and Private Schools That Hired or Retained Individuals with Histories of Sexual Misconduct’ – examined 15 cases that showed that individuals with histories of sexual misconduct were hired or retained by public and private schools as teachers, support staff, volunteers, and contractors. At least 11 of these 15 cases involved sex offenders who previously targeted children, and at least 6 cases involved offenders who used their new positions as school employees or volunteers to abuse more children.
The GAO report revealed that the following factors contributed to hiring or retention of sex offenders:
- School officials allowed teachers who had engaged in sexual misconduct toward students to resign rather than face disciplinary action, often providing subsequent employers with positive references;
- Schools did not perform pre-employment criminal history checks;
- Even if schools did perform pre-employment criminal history checks, they may have been inadequate in that they were not national, fingerprint-based, or recurring; and
- Schools failed to inquire into troubling information regarding criminal histories on employment applications.
Some examples of cases from around the United States that the GAO examined for the report include:
- Ohio: A teacher forced to resign because of inappropriate conduct with female students received a letter of recommendation from the school superintendent calling him an “outstanding teacher.” After being subsequently hired at a neighboring district, he was convicted for sexual battery against a sixth grade girl.
- Louisiana: A teacher and registered sex offender whose Texas teaching certificate had been revoked was hired by several Louisiana schools without receiving a criminal history check. A warrant is currently out for his arrest on charges of engaging in sexual conversations with a student at one of these schools.
- Arizona: A school rushing to fill a position did not conduct a criminal history check before hiring a teacher who had been convicted for sexually abusing a minor, even though he disclosed on his application that he had committed a dangerous crime against a child. He was later convicted for having sexual contact with a young female student.
- California: A sex offender was convicted for molesting a minor in 2000 and the school where he worked was aware of his conviction but did not fire him. After the GAO referred the case to the California Attorney General, officials placed the sex offender, who has since resigned, on administrative leave.
The GAO report also found no federal laws regulating the employment of sex offenders in public or private schools and varying laws at the state level. While some states required a national, fingerprint-based criminal history checks for school employment, others states did not. State laws also varied as to whether past convictions would result in termination from school employment, revocation of a teaching license, or refusal to hire.
GAO performed the study after a 2004 Department of Education report estimated that millions of students are subjected to sexual misconduct by a school employee at some time between kindergarten and the twelfth grade (K-12). GAO was asked to:
- Examine the circumstances surrounding cases where K-12 schools hired or retained individuals with histories of sexual misconduct and determine the factors contributing to such employment actions and
- Provide an overview of selected federal and state laws related to the employment of convicted sex offenders in K-12 schools.
To identify case studies, the GAO compared recent data in employment databases from 19 states and the District of Columbia to the National Sex Offender Registry and also searched public records to identify cases where sexual misconduct by school employees resulted in a criminal conviction. GAO ultimately selected 15 cases from 11 states for further investigation.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) performs sexual offender searches as well as criminal record searches around the United States supplemented by a national multi-jurisdictional search. Although no one search is perfect, ESR recommends a series of overlapping tools that must also include checking professional licenses and verifying past employment, especially looking for unexplained gaps in employment where an offender may try to hide past negative information.
For more information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.