Have a consistent policy – patchwork background checks for NC educators

Have a consistent policy – patchwork background checks for NC educators

Excerpted from a News 13 WLOS story by Jennifer Emert

While parents in Asheville, North Carolina might assume teachers go through rigorous background checks, a News 13 investigation uncovers that’s not necessarily the case.

The State Department of Public Instruction has been pushing for changes that could better protect students since 2016, and again this fall a proposal to change the way background checks are done was included in the state’s budget expansion, but legislators have yet to take the steps that could better weed out someone who might pose a danger to your children.

When teacher Blane Gregory was charged a year ago with an unlawful sex act in a Lincoln County child predator sting, parents in the local districts where he previously taught took to social media. Jennifer Morgan, said “He was asked to leave before the school year ended, and I never got an answer as to why.”

News 13 verified incidents were reported to law enforcement involving Gregory and a student at Mountain Heritage High school 8 years ago, as well as an East McDowell Middle School in 2014. Those incidents were closed without charges.

Terry Jo Slater asks, “Shouldn’t there be an extensive background check on people we are entrusting with our children?” The State Department of Public Instructions answer may give parents pause.

“We have kind of a patchwork of background check systems within the school districts and charter schools,” said Drew Elliot, Communications Director for North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction.

State law requires each school system to have a background check policy, leaving it up to the district how to scrutinize those credentials.

“If you ask a question someone doesn’t like, that’s just too bad because, what you really want to know is this person safe and should they be with our students,” said Dr. Bill Nolte, Haywood County Schools Superintendent.

“When I give a reference that’s who I am, that’s my integrity, I’m putting my name on that person so I want to be very honest with a district when they call me and I expect the same in return,” said AC Reynolds Principal, Doris Sellers.

Without charges, any incident looked at by law enforcement may never turn up in a background check. The state’s misconduct program however is one way a school could alert another to concerns, but the problem according to the State Department of Public Instruction its use is far from universal.

“If an employee has ever done anything inappropriate with a child, then there’s a requirement to notify the licensing department,” said Dr. Nolte.

You can read the full story here.

 

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