Parents grow concerned after learning that a convicted sex offender worked as a school counselor for a Fairfax County middle school. They are now pushing to introduce annual background checks for all school personnel directly interacting with children. The convicted sex offender worked for approximately 20 months after being arrested and sentenced for soliciting prostitution from a minor.
In the wake of the incident, police attempted to notify the school of the incident through email. However, records show that the email was “undeliverable.” Unfortunately, no one discovered this until nearly two years later. This lost email allowed the employee to continue working at the school despite the arrest. The employee registered as a sex offender in June 2022; however, he listed himself as “self-employed.”
The discovery shocked some parents, who expected the arrest to turn up in an annual background check. However, parents were more surprised to learn that the system lacked procedures that required regular background checks. As a result, many parents are calling on the school system to mandate annual background checks for all school personnel who may have one-on-one contact with minors. This demand is a standard procedure in many high-risk positions.
In response to the parents’ demands, the school system asked a third party to investigate the incident independently. The third-party will also look into the school’s processes and external processes that may have contributed to this turn of events. The results may reveal how this incident occurred and indicate a path forward to prevent a repeat.
The public school district has a policy of performing criminal background checks and reference checks upon hiring. However, it does not perform further criminal background checks to detect crimes during an employee’s tenure. In this recent incident, the former employee received a background check, but it happened before August 2020, his hiring date. This background check subsequently happened before his arrest, which took place in November 2020.
Now, parents are calling for annual background checks for staff directly interacting with students as a stopgap to detect incidents that occur after hiring. This policy update could put parents’ minds at ease and ensure an incident like this never happens again.
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