ICCSD background check policy called ‘adequate’ but ‘room for improvement’

ICCSD background check policy called ‘adequate’ but ‘room for improvement’
KCJJ Staff

An Iowa City Community Schools official says the district’s background check policy is “adequate but I think there is room for improvement.”

School board legal counsel Joe Holland told the board on Tuesday the district could benefit from work being done in the Mid-Prairie Community School District, which he also represents. He says the board could piggyback on committee work being done in that district, which created a committee earlier this year after discovering a school volunteer had at one time been on the state’s sex offender registry.

Holland said if the board makes any changes, it needs to do so with some flexibility because “people are wild cards sometimes” and you don’t want to automatically disqualify someone for an incident long in the past.

“A big challenge is that what you’re looking at is past behavior,” Holland said. “And you can’t always predict future behavior based on past behavior.”

The board asked for the review after the incident at Mid-Prairie and after the district fired a substitute teacher, who was discovered by parents to have been charged with felony drug charges a decade ago in western Iowa. The charges had been expunged from the teacher’s record in 2014.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jane Fry says they conduct background checks on all teachers, substitutes, paraeducators and volunteers in the district but a criminal conviction is not an automatic denial.

Holland also raised the issue of how often to conduct the checks. The state will require fresh background checks on all school employees every five years starting this year. But the state has no requirement for volunteers.

District chief financial officer Craig Hansel adds the district currently requires construction and vendor contracts to run background checks on all employees who will be on school grounds.