GAO Issues Report on Sexual Abuse of Kids in K-12 Schools

By Teresa Anderson


The GAO also found that many schools failed to conduct criminal background checks. In 10 of the 15 cases, schools did not perform preemployment criminal history checks on prospective employees.

For example, an Arizona school hired a teacher who had been convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor. The school chose not to conduct a background check because it was in a hurry to fill the position. The teacher was later arrested and convicted for sexually abusing a student. In another case, a Florida school allowed a convicted sex offender to work as a volunteer coach. The school did not conduct a background check even though such checks were required under school policy. The volunteer was later arrested for having sexual contact with students.

Those schools that did conduct background checks often failed to do so thoroughly. Some schools conducted checks only for the state it operated in, allowing sex offenders from other states to work at the school. Another school used a nickname to conduct a search, missing a sex offender’s criminal history under his full name. None of the schools interviewed conducted recurring criminal checks to identify individuals who commit offenses while they are employed.

In some instances, schools did not follow up on troubling information that did surface on the background checks. For example, an applicant at one school checked “yes” when asked whether he had been convicted of “a dangerous crime against children.” The school failed to follow up on this information. The applicant was hired and later arrested for abusing children at the school.

The GAO reports that there are no federal laws regulating the employment of sex offenders at public or private schools. State laws have varying requirements for hiring and conducting background checks. The report includes state laws for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

♦ Photo by ChrisYunker/Flickr

GAO-11-200.pdf358.6 KB


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