Teacher background check improvements remain unimplemented in NC

WAVY News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In schools all across North Carolina, teachers are entrusted with children but sometimes that trust is taken advantage of.

“We want to believe they all have good intentions, but unfortunately the predators go where the students are,” said Billie-Jo Grant, a board member with the organization Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation.

Recent teacher arrests have raised questions about the background check process in North Carolina.

In 2010, a state task force recommended several changes to the background check process.

Many of the changes have not been adopted, including requiring fingerprint background checks.

Then in 2016, a USA Today report gave North Carolina an “F” grade for background checks on teachers.

Since then, lawmakers have attempted to pass bills to improve the process but very little has been done to address vetting educators.

The most recent bill to address background checks, House Bill 117, got stuck in committee.

“It always amazes me how opposition to some of the most logical things comes about,” said Union County Representative Craig Horn (R), the primary sponsor of the bill. “We still have an obligation to protect children and protect each other in every way.”

Lawmakers say they plan on tackling the issue again next session.

Those studying the issue claim background checks are helpful, but can be limited saying they only raise concern for those who already have a criminal background.

“We know that about 95 percent of cases are not reported to law enforcement so many of the cases will not be able to be searched by a background check,” said Grant.

Grant says school districts also need to have open channels where students can report sexual misconduct and parents need to have conversations with their students about warning signs.