Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has conducted a background check on each of its 43,332 active school-based and central office employees and 97.9 percent cleared their rescreening and have returned to work on for 2018-2019 school year, according to a statement from CPS Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Janice K. Jackson.
Dr. Jackson stated that 266 active CPS employees were notified that they were not permitted to return to work as a result of information uncovered in the background check, and CPS would conduct thorough investigations in all of these instances to better understand the circumstances of each unique case.
CPS employees were only removed based on the results of their background check if arrests were identified that suggest a potential history of violence, sexual misconduct, or dangerous criminal activity, Dr. Jackson stated. She added that 57 of the CPS employees who have been removed are teachers.
Dr. Jackson noted that removal of CPS employees did not mean they did anything wrong or would not return to work after an investigation into their background check results, but their removal based on their background check results was necessary to determine their ability to support safe schools.
Not all CPS employees removed from work were pulled as a result of background check findings, as 245 CPS employees chose not to submit fingerprints for a re-check and so they were not permitted to return to work until and unless they submit fingerprints or else be disqualified from future CPS employment.
“By conducting the background check refresh, CPS has made significant progress toward ensuring that all adults working in schools have been background checked under uniform, rigorous standards,” Former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Illinois Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey said in the statement.
In recent years, CPS has made significant improvements to strengthen its centralized background check processes. CPS has been conducting re-checks to ensure that all adults are evaluated through the stringent process that has been in place since 2012 regardless of when they began serving in the district.
The CPS background check process utilizes fingerprint-based checks of state and federal databases. When evaluating background check records, CPS considers the nature of the conduct in relation to the position each individual would occupy and evaluates any patterns of behaviors or allegations.
When background check results identified a history of criminal arrests or convictions, CPS sought more information from the individual so that they could make informed decisions about each individual. Any individual who committed an enumerated offense, as defined by state statute, was disqualified.
In June 2018, ESR News reported that CPS announced that all adults who regularly work in schools – including CPS employees, coaches, volunteers, and vendors – would undergo background checks to rescreen their backgrounds before school starts for the 2018-19 year, according to a CPS press release.
The unprecedented step to promote student safety through background checks of all adult CPS workers builds on the comprehensive Plan of Action the district outlined in May of 2018 to protect students and will ensure that every adult who works in CPS schools contributes to a safe educational environment.
CPS is the nation’s third-largest school district and serves 371,000 students in 646 schools. CPS will keep parents updated on a regular basis through a web page at CPS.edu/ProtectingStudents. Suspected abuse should be reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services at 800-25-ABUSE.
The strengthening of background checks at CPS coincided with an investigation by the Chicago Tribune using police data, records, and interviews with teens that revealed “ineffective background checks exposed students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children.”
The Tribune reported that “investigators found credible evidence of misconduct” in 230 of 430 reports that school employees had sexually abused, assaulted, or harassed students. Chicago police investigated 523 reports of children being sexually assaulted or abused from 2008 to 2017, about one report a week.
“Due diligence does not stop after the initial background checks of applicants and neither does risk, so a post hire screening policy is a critical component of any successful screening program,” explained Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR).
“Just as there is liability in hiring a person with a criminal past, employers that fail to conduct some type of due diligence post-hire could have the inverse issue of negligent hiring, and that is to retain a person they knew, or should have known, could pose a predictable risk of harm,” added Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’
But Rosen also warned some rescreenings rely only on databases that can be notoriously unreliable and result in relevant information being missed or criminal matters being reported that are not reportable. “Consumers need to understand that so-called continuous screening is not a magic bullet that guarantees their safety,” he said.
Rosen has updated a white paper he wrote entitled “21 Shortcuts and Traps that Can Lead to Inaccurate Criminal Records” that is a summary of the ways that screening firms could potentially take shortcuts that may undermine the accuracy of criminal records data provided to an employer.
ESR Offers Post-Hire Background Check Solutions
Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers a suite of post-hire background check solutions that can be a critical component of any successful rescreening program. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Solutions/Post-Hire-Background-Checks/.
NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.
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