PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN
One of the most significant trends we’re seeing emerge in background and reference checking is the increasing number of educational institutions – not only in primary and secondary schools, but also in higher education – who realize that protecting students is essential.
Nearly every week another story appears about a student being harmed by someone associated with a school. While doing a careful background check won’t ensure that the abuse of students will end, it will screen out those people who have a history of inappropriate behavior. Furthermore, when it’s all said and done, educational institutions have a moral and legal responsibility to protect their students, particularly in the elementary grades where students are the most vulnerable.
We’re seeing more and more public and private schools requesting background checks on everybody who has any contact whatsoever with their students. That includes not just teachers and administrators, but also custodial staff, volunteer coaches, parent volunteers, substitute teachers, bus drivers, and anyone else who has even limited contact with students.
At one level, conducting a background check on all school employees, paid or volunteer, can be looked on as risk-mitigation and as a way to reduce the likelihood of negligent hiring litigation if the unthinkable should happen. There is a long-standing legal principle that schools literally take the place of the parent while students are under the school’s supervision, and more and more states are requiring background checks as a matter of law. But, at a more fundamental level, protecting students is something that schools simply ought to be doing – because it is the right thing to do.
By any definition one cares to use, it makes far more sense to be safe than sorry when the welfare and safety of students is at stake.