Schools could improve criminal background check processes

Delaware’s state auditor said the Department of Education could improve processes involving criminal background checks for employees having direct contact with students.

State Auditor Kathy McGuiness said in a news release that her office conducted an audit of the state’s school districts and the Department of Educations’ Human Resources department to ascertain if state laws and regulations for criminal background checks on employees, contractors and volunteers are being followed.

“My audit team completed 20 performance audits – one audit of each of the state’s 19 school districts and one of the Department of Education – and assessed how well each entity is complying with state laws and regulations regarding required criminal background checks,” McGuiness said. “The goal here is to ensure Delaware’s students are protected from potential exposure to people with a known criminal history of harming children.”

The results of the audit, according to the release, showed that the Department of Education was not fully compliant with the requirements on criminal background checks and was inadequate with processes and internal controls pertaining to the checks.

The report is recommending the Department of Education review and update internal controls to achieve compliance, develop a monitoring process to ensure criminal background checks are obtained and reviewed and that suitability determinations are fully documented.

While the department established processes and internal controls for conducting and retaining criminal background checks, it wasn’t fully compliant with state laws and regulations, according to the release.

The audit, according to the release, sampled 36 employee records where criminal background checks were required and 35 of those employee records did not have documented evidence of completion of a determination of suitability for employment. The suitability report includes the name of the person performing the review, the date it was reviewed, the decision, and any documentation of any denial.

The department reported in the audit that it only keeps suitability records on criminal background checks with criminal activity, according to the release. However, one criminal background check record with a determination of suitability documented did not fully address the policy and procedures.

“Every entity we audited had internal controls in place for following the criminal background check process,” McGuiness said. “But as we examined how well these entities followed state laws and regulations, we discovered that districts’ management teams were using a wide variety of processes and procedures, and opportunities existed to improve districts’ internal controls.”

The audit turned up five employees who did not have documented evidence they were in compliance with a criminal background check, which includes fingerprint checks from the state police or Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Two of the employees were employed by the Department of Justice as district attorneys general, according to the release. That department’s chief of staff provided a letter stating “there was no criminal history on the employees and they are consistently monitored” for criminal activity.

“Ensuring background check clearance requirements under state law and regulations are satisfied is critical to protect students and to address legal and governance responsibilities placed on the district and school board,” McGuiness said. “In all cases, once we determined compliance with federal and state background checks, then the key factor we were looking for was whether management documented its review of those background checks and actively determined the person was suitable to work with children, which is what the law requires.”

The background checks, McGuiness said, are paid for with taxpayer money by the school district performing the criminal background checks.

This article was originally posted on Schools could improve criminal background check processes

Author: Brent Addleman

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