Background Checks Not Reported
Montee says a major step in getting a teaching job in Missouri is getting overlooked. The Family Care Safety Registry is one of two major background checks new teachers should complete before starting the job. Currently, only eight percent of prospective teachers and 21 percent of substitute teachers are registered in the Safety Registry. But Montee says that no one is making sure that happens.
"What we have found is the inadequate state laws are causing a risk for our students," explained Montee.
She believes insufficient personnel background checks may put students' safety in danger. Along with a criminal safety check, she says the Safety Registry offers more information to a school district before a hire is made, but there is no law that requires teachers to complete the Safety Registry before getting a teaching certifcate.
"There in lies the problem. The highway patrol does not take care of the FCSR, it is administered, as I'd said, through the Department of Health and Senior Services and so the position of DESE and the position of Department of Health and Senior services is that because the law says the Highway Patrol would check it that in fact it is not required," explained Montee.
"Several of the requirements that we have in state law in Missouri regarding background checks and educator miscounduct are fairly recent and that maybe the reason for the conflict here between these policies. So what the auditor has pointed out is this lack of clarity about who can require or who should require this background check," said Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman Jim Morris.
Montee hopes this audit will help find an answer to the question of who is held accountable. Very few state officials are aware of the Safety Registry.
The Safety Registry isn't the only issue Montee discussed in her concern about teacher backgrounds. She discussed some gaps in the state's criminal background checks as well.