Can you imagine allowing a registered sex offender to hold a job as a school teacher or administrator? Or serve as a volunteer on campus? Apparently it happens every day across the United States.
A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, found that some school districts engage in what has been called “pass the trash.” This involves a staff member disciplined for sexual misconduct agreeing to quietly leave his/her position as long as the district does not disclose any incidents to future employers.
And while a majority of states require at least basic background checks on potential school employees, some don’t make the same demand for private schools. Meantime, some states require checks for teachers, but not for other school employees.
A U.S. Department of Education study estimates that sometime during their school years, millions of K-12 students will be sexually abused by a school employee.
It’s a frightening situation. There are currently more than 700,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. and thousands more that have never been caught and convicted. Paying any of them to have access to schoolchildren is crazy.
It’s time for a federal standard, or at least guidelines, for background checks. And those checks need to be national in scope as sex offenders often move from state to state. Some school officials claim that thorough checks are time consuming and expensive and leave them open to potential lawsuits. But I say we owe this to our kids.
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