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Using Background Checks to Keep Schools Safe

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, schools and schoolyards are enticing places for sexual predators. The combination of a large, moving target population and unique security issues gives sexual offenders the feeling of easy pickings. Today, keeping children safe from sexual predators is one of the top concerns of school officials, students, and parents.

The best efforts are being made by school districts to restrict unsupervised student movements and ensure that every child makes it to and from school safely; but getting kids into and out of the building securely is not enough. School districts need to take great pains to ensure that those who are allowed into school buildings do not have a history of offense.

One of the factors that makes school safety difficult in regards to sexual offenders is that there is not one federal statute that governs all schools across the nation; requirements and protocols for sex offender background checks in school systems varies from state to state. Some states have very good laws requiring criminal and sex offender background checks on every person allowed close contact with students. Others are still quite lacking, despite concerns.

Regardless of whether a state requires sex offender background checks on people working or visiting in schools, districts can take measures on their own to ensure that no criminal sex offenses exist in a person’s history. Background checks can be performed by school officials with the consent of the person in question, or a security firm can be partnered with to handle all of a school’s background checking needs.

Who Should Be Included in School Sex Offender Background Checks

School officials and parents need to consider that anyone who is coming in close contact, and most especially those with the potential to be left unsupervised with kids, should be subjected to a sex offender background check. This includes, but is not always limited to,

  • Classroom volunteers
  • Teaching staff
  • Maintenance staff
  • Office and administrative staff
  • Contractors and sub contractors
  • Transportation staff, drivers
  • Healthcare personnel
  • Cafeteria staff
  • Anyone spending significant time in the school

Conducting school sex offender background checks is the first step towards keeping children safe from child predators. Interpreting those results is the second step. Along with setting a policy for background checks and securing the appropriate services for doing so, school administrators also need to set a policy for interpretation of returned results and decide what constitutes cut-off points for offenses; although in the case of sex offenses, the determination is usually fairly clear cut, decisions may need to be made in regards to completed sentences of minor offenses.

Keeping children safe at school and school sponsored events is the responsibility of every school district. Due to the severe nature and future implications of sexual crimes, knowing who is being allowed into contact with students is an absolute necessity for school systems.

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