New Report Offers Ideas To Tighten Background Checks At Tennessee Schools

Local News

    A first of its kind report outlined how Tennessee school districts can better protect against hiring people who sexually abuse children.

    The comptroller’s office study released Wednesday gave ideas on how districts can improve background checks and better define employee misconduct.

    This study came after a 2016 USA Today report, which gave Tennessee a grade of F in how school districts conduct educator background checks and report educator misconduct.

     The study comes as Memphis groups want adults trained to pinpoint abuse signs. 

     “Any case of sexual misconduct against a student or a child is one case too many,” Legislative Research Analyst Tara Bergfeld said.

     Preventing all educator abuse of kids is what drove Bergfeld, the report’s co-author.

     “School districts bear primary responsibility that their employees are qualified and safe to work with children,” Bergfeld said.

     The 126-page report outlines how school districts can better define misconduct and tighten background checks to ensure potential predators don’t fall through the cracks.

     It also highlights the hiring practices at Shelby County Schools.  

     “They can do a periodic background check on their employees and unlike a lot of other districts, Shelby County has a policy that require a background check for their volunteers, that’s not required by state law,” Bergfeld said.

     “Background checks are very important, no doubt about it, but they are not the only thing organizations need to do,” Memphis Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Virginia Stallworth said.

     Stallworth also supports the Stewards Of Children abuse training program, taught at schools, youth organizations and hospitals.

     “When people understand more about the dynamics of child sexual abuse, they are more likely to pick up on the signs that a child may be targeted or may be abused currently,” Stallworth said.

     The writers of the report hope it will lead to policy changes, hearings and new legislation this session in Nashville.

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