Substitute Teacher’s Arrest Raises Questions About Background Checks

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The arrest of a substitute teacher in Crawford County for allegedly taking pictures of two elementary boys in the school bathroom with a cell phone has raised questions about the types of background checks school employees must pass before they are allowed to work with children.

According to Ronnie Newton, Assistant Superintendent with the Alma School District, the state of Arkansas requires substitute teachers to possess a high school diploma or GED and pass a state and federal background check.

State police said background checks tell a person's criminal history and indicate if they have any outstanding warrants.

Some districts also check candidates against the child maltreatment central registry to see if they've had any involvement in child abuse.

"It's the same background check that teachers have to have," said Newton. "Administrators, bus drivers, anybody that works with children in schools and other settings like daycare centers."

Many school districts also require their substitute teachers to have completed some college coursework and attend a training session.

Parents picking up their kids at Tate Elementary School in Van Buren Thursday said in addition to background checks, mental health evaluations and investigating someone's family history might give more insight into a person's stability. Others said they don't know what else the school district could have done to prescreen employees.

"You never know what’s going on in a person’s heart even though you pass a background check," said grandparent Gary Fitzpatrick. "I think the school's done a good job and done what they’re supposed to do. They followed protocol. If the guy’s guilty, let the law take care of it.”