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Are Ongoing Background Checks On Horizon For Johnston County Employees?

In January, the Johnston County School Board will consider whether employees will be subjected to ongoing criminal history checks after being hired by the school district. Currently, applicants are screened for criminal offenses prior to being offered a job, but the new proposal would require employees' actions be continuously monitored.

A similar program is already in place in Wake County and will be expanded in the coming months to include all employees. Previously, only bus drivers and volunteers were subjected to ongoing background checks.

Rules in place in both Johnston and Wake County require employees of either school district to self-report a criminal charge or conviction. Wake County currently checks sex offender registries, Department of Corrections records and state and national court records when conducting background checks.

The proposed policy change in Johnston County is not tied to any one incident or any one employee, according to school district officials. But it is a "no-brainer" according to some school board members. Peggy Smith, a former principal in Johnston County, thought of at least one instance in which the ongoing background checks might have helped protect children: adults who abuse children.

Two Johnston County Schools employees were arrested in 2012, bringing the attention of the media to the type of people employed to work with kids in the district. At Smithfield-Selma High School, a teacher's assistant was charged with heroin-related drug crimes. At Archer Lodge Middle School, a former teacher was charged with sex offenses involving a child.

Source: Raleigh News Observer, "Johnston County schools might expand background checks," December 26, 2012

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