After it was found that a Washington elementary school substitute teacher had threatened and hit some of his students, East Valley School District wondered how it was possible that Matthew Deryan had passed the background checks required to be a substitute teacher in the state. Deryan had a criminal history prior to being hired, though it did not include crimes against children. (His record included a domestic violence restraining order. As he was investigated, it was discovered that Deryan had also been arrested on a DUI charge only a few months prior to the start of the investigation.) East Valley School District Assistant Superintendent Tom Gresch said the district is now considering conducting employee criminal history background checks on teachers and substitute teachers each year, to make sure this type of incident does not happen again, but believes that other school districts in the state and country need to follow suit in order to make a difference. Other school districts in the area are not doing annual employee criminal history checks, but East Valley is considering them to reduce the risk of others “slipping through the cracks.” If you’re running a school, daycare center or public school district, consider the following measures to ensure your students’ safety:
- When a new substitute teacher begins work in your district, conduct your own series of employee criminal history checks; don’t expect that someone in another district has done your job for you. A substitute with years of experience and great references should not be exempt from scrutiny.
- Be aware that you may need to do more than just a local police check for a criminal record. If an employee or substitute has recently moved or transferred from a district in another city or state, you will need to contact their previous county clerks for records as well. The best way to conduct these extensive checks is to hire a reputable screening company.
- Consider running annual or bi-annual employee criminal history checks on anyone in your employ that comes in contact with children, even if they have been working in the district for a long time. Ensure all teachers and substitutes are fingerprinted as well. While the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction would likely be alerted if a fingerprinted employee were arrested, it’s better to be safe than sorry if another situation like Deryan’s turns up.
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