In 2016, the educational community was rocked by a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation that found significant omissions in a widely used teacher database run by a national non-profit. At the time, we noted that databases where participation is voluntary, such as this one, are often problematic and should never be relied upon exclusively. With the possibility of federal and state education budget cuts looming, schools may be even more challenged to conduct thorough background checks without professional assistance. Yet, the repercussions if an inadequately screened teacher commits a crime or engages in serious misconduct can be far worse than the cost of professional background screening.
What Barada Discovered in 2016
After reviewing the results of last year’s report, we uncovered numerous concerns. Our home state, Indiana, received a “failing” (F) grade, so we felt compelled to learn more. The report cited several problems, including screening being left to local school districts (resulting in incomplete or inconsistent checks) and weak mandatory reporting of teacher misconduct.
Indiana wasn’t alone—it was one of 12 failing states—and only eight states received an “A”. Here at Barada, that underscored for us the importance of not taking anything for granted when it comes to background screening.
The simple fact is that a sufficiently thorough background check will uncover most serious behavior. It may not reveal a minor infraction, such as a teacher grabbing a student by the arm, but if a teacher has been caught and punished for illegal activity, a qualified screening service should find that record.
No single database, however “thorough” or “trusted,” can ever provide the total picture. Successful background reports are built with layers of information, obtained from multiple sources. There is no substitute for hard work.