Background Checks

While the answer to the foregoing question might seem obvious, in many instances it’s not nearly as obvious as one might think.  Read on, and you’ll see that it isn’t.  To begin with, there are only three reasons why a school corporation can fire a tenured teacher: incompetence, immorality, or insubordination.

So let’s suppose that the school your child attends catches a teacher inappropriately involved with a student.  You would think the teacher would be immediately fired.  Well, most of the time, that isn’t what happens at all.  I’m aware of several instances where the teacher involved in this type of situation has been given two choices: resign or be fired.  Which option do you think most teachers choose?  Of course, they resign!  Even though the teacher could have been charged with, let’s say, child molestation, schools seldom file a complaint with the local prosecutor.  They simply send the offending teacher out in the world with what appears to be an unblemished record.  How does that happen?  Well, if the offending teacher goes to another school district and if a background check is done, what do you think will be found?  That’s right – nothing!

Even if the school does a background check and someone calls the previous school corporation and asks the logical question: “Why did so-and-so leave your school district?”  the answer is going to be something like “resignation,” not termination – because, technically, that’s the truth.

Even if a court check is done on the offending teacher, no record will be found because, as mentioned previously, schools don’t normally file a complaint with their local prosecuting attorney.  So no court record exists.

One way to solve this sort of problem is for schools that do reference checks to ask questions like, “Could this teacher have stayed?” or “Would you hire this teacher again?”

Unless the school doing the hiring knows how to do a proper reference check, the teacher who not only should have been fired, but also should have been prosecuted as a child molester will move on to another school corporation with a completely clean slate.

In addition, every school corporation hiring new teachers should ask each candidate for a teaching position to provide the names of three references: the chair of their department, a colleague from that department, and the building principal.  Talking with the secretary in the district superintendent’s office isn’t the way to go about protecting students from harm.

There’s an old saying in public education that “the best way to get rid of a poor teacher is to sing his or her praises and hope he or she moves on to another unsuspecting school district.”