Teaching Profession

Boston School Officials Unware of How Many New Hires Have Criminal Records

By Erin Smith, Boston Herald (McClatchy-Tribune) — December 23, 2013 2 min read
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Parents still can’t find out how many staffers with rap sheets the Boston Public Schools hired this year—even after city education honchos vowed to be more transparent in the wake of startling revelations that dozens of employees had criminal records.

School officials only admitted they aren’t keeping count of school workers hired with baggage after the Boston Herald filed an appeal with the Secretary of State’s Office for the information.

“Parents can be confident that we have conducted rigorous background checks and look closely and carefully at each person in our schools,” said BPS spokesman Lee McGuire. “Anyone who doesn’t pass a background check doesn’t work for us, it’s that simple.”

McGuire blocked the Herald’s request for information in September, saying school workers’ privacy concerns trumped parents’ right to know.

The Herald had sought information on how many job applicants this school year were flagged for review by the district’s Criminal Offender Record Information—or CORI—panel, how many of those job applicants with criminal records had been cleared to work in city schools, and the crimes and convictions of those new hires.

Shawn Williams, the state’s supervisor of records, struck down McGuire’s privacy argument in his decision on the Herald’s appeal, finding school officials “erred” in citing privacy exemptions for personnel and criminal history because the Herald wasn’t asking for identifying information about the employees.

McGuire, who now says the panel does not know how many new hires have rap sheets, told the Herald there are no set guidelines for clearing those with criminal records to work with children.

“We look at the whole picture,” McGuire said.

“It’s a process that happens on a case-by-case basis and everyone is looked at individually.”

Three employees with rap sheets were already cleared by the district’s CORI panel to return to working with children earlier this year. Those workers were among 34 school employees flagged for convictions and arrests for rape, indecent assault and battery, kidnapping, robbery, drugs and other crimes.

School officials finished intensive background checks on roughly 9,000 employees in September—more than seven months after the Herald reported McKinley Preparatory High School van driver Gerard J. Grimes continued to work for the district despite two drunken driving busts and three burglary convictions.

Before the background checks were complete, Deputy Superintendent Joe Shea told the Herald he had no idea how many people with criminal records the school district’s CORI panel had cleared to work in city schools in the past but boasted he had begun keeping accurate records on the panel’s deliberations.

McGuire said at least five CORI panel members must deliberate to clear any new hire.

Copyright (c) 2013, Boston Herald. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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