Two interesting background check stories are currently circulating the internet: one from NYC and the from Chicago. As we read about the occurrences in these two cities, it made us think about their potential implications for other states, like Vermont.
New York City
NYC has announced that it will overhaul its system of conducting background checks for all 9000 of its school bus drivers. This comes in response to recent reports detailing vetting weaknesses of their employees. The drivers have always been fingerprinted, but they will not be subjected to the same background checks as all other NYC employees, which includes an FBI criminal history review. There have been approximately 82,000 complaints filed so far this year. And there were two startling reports: one that a retired NYPD detective, who used to screen candidates, had his signature forged approving over 100 drivers; and two that 6 drivers had criminal convictions, some for drunk driving and domestic abuse. Mayor Bill de Basio was quoted as saying: “This has been an absolutely unacceptable situation. We will not allow it to continue. There should have been background checks for absolutely everyone. That is now being instituted.”
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) recently conducted a background check on each of its employees – 43,332 employees to be exact. A staggering number, and only 97.9% were cleared and have returned to work this year. CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson stated that 266 active employees were notified they were not permitted to return to work as a result of unconvering information related to arrests that suggest a potential history of violence, sexual misconduct, or dangerous criminal activity. 57 of these removed employees were teachers. It is important to note that not all removed employees necessarily did anything wrong or would not return to work after an investigation. Additionally 245 employees chose not to submit their fingerprints for a re-check. These folks were not permitted to return to work until and unless their fingerprints were submitted. The CPS efforts are commendable, but no without controversy. The strengthening of background checks at CPS and the efforts to promote student safety coincided with a Chicago Tribune investigation that revealed previous ineffective background checks had exposed students to educators with criminal convictions or arrests for sex crimes against children. We are so glad to see a school system that serves over 371,000 students in 646 schools take the necessary steps to protect the youth.