Chicago Public Schools District Parts Ways With Hundreds Of Workers

December 04, 2018
After a disturbing study showed many workers had not been screened, the district ran background checks on all employees, vendors and volunteers.
Backgrounds Online | December 04, 2018


After a disturbing study showed many workers had not been screened, the district ran background checks on all employees, vendors and volunteers.

The Results Of Chicago’s Background Checks

In July of 2018, the Chicago Public School District (CPSD) announced they would run background checks on every adult employee. This was prompted by an article published by the Chicago Times that revealed more than 500 cases of juvenile abuse had been reported during a ten-year period. The article went on to say that this tragedy was able to occur because the CPSD did not have an effective background check process in place.

The district decreed that new background checks would be mandatory for everyone who works at a Chicago public school. After going through this screening process, a shocking number of people were removed from their positions. According to a follow-up article in the Chicago Times, terminations included:
· 9 full-time teachers;
· 35 classroom aides;
· An unspecified number of hourly or substitute workers;
· More than 100 volunteers;
· Around 184 vendors, most of whom were custodial staff.

More than 25 coaches are under further investigation due to information found in their background checks. In addition, 124 employees are barred from working because they have not yet authorized their background checks, which must occur before those screenings can begin.

Next Steps For Chicago Public Schools

According to the Chicago Tribune, over 68,000 employees, vendors and volunteers have been authorized to report for duty at various public schools. As people apply for jobs in the district, they will also need to go through the background check process before being approved. The district learned a valuable lesson about the need to have comprehensive background screening policies in place and follow them at all times.

While this situation led to some positive outcomes, not everyone is satisfied. The President of the Chicago Teachers Union stated that it has been “Bitterly disappointing that CPSD has essentially locked us out of the process to work collaboratively with CPSD to make student safety paramount.” Moving forward, the union hopes to receive information regarding the background checks that are run on all applicants.

A Call For Annual Background Checks

After the CPSD ran background checks on existing workers, they were lauded for their efforts. However, there is still concern that the district does not yet have recurring screening policies. Raise Your Hand, an education advocacy group, wants more transparency regarding the district’s background screening policies. They do, however, understand that can be a sensitive subject due to privacy concerns.

A representative of Raise Your Hand stated that the district needs to implement ongoing background screenings for existing employees. She was reported as saying: “Initial steps needed to be taken to close loopholes that have existed for decades on background checks and re-checking employees, as well as vendors.”

Ongoing or annual screenings search for new convictions that a person may have incurred during the previous year. By running ongoing background checks, the CPSD could see if anyone who works at a public school received a conviction that makes them ineligible for continued employment.

Takeaway For Employers

A difficult lesson was learned by the CPSD. It is essential to run comprehensive background checks on everyone who will represent your business or organization. This includes employees, part-time staff, contractors and volunteers. If people who work on your behalf are found to have a violent, sexual or otherwise serious criminal conviction, it shows that you did not perform due diligence.

Running background checks demonstrates that you are taking steps to hire qualified and eligible people who are trusted to represent your brand. Whether you are looking for full-time employees, part-time on-demand workers, volunteers or anyone else, it is critical to thoroughly screen each person before hiring or contracting with them.

If your business or organization needs to bring on people to represent your brand, please contact us. Our experienced staff is highly trained and able to help put together background check packages that are ideal for all of your screening scenarios. We are available Monday – Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.