By Victor Skinner
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – It’s bad enough school and union officials routinely cut deals with teachers suspected of sexually abusing students, giving them letters of recommendation and allowing them to avoid prosecution in exchange for their resignations.
Now it appears that a New Hampshire state law is also helping educators with checkered pasts avoid detection when they apply for school jobs.
State Rep. Rebecca Emerson-Brown is pushing to “toughen up the law” limiting what police can divulge to schools about an applicant’s criminal history, after a Portsmouth school employee with a conviction for assault secured employment in Portsmouth schools and allegedly solicited a 14-year-old student for sex, the news site reports, SeaCoastOnline.com reports.
“It’s absolutely something we need to look into,” Emerson-Brown said. “People have a right to privacy, but I think it’s definitely something we need to look at.”
Police allege high school technology employee Kenneth Kimber, 34, used school equipment to send sexually explicit photos of himself to a 14-year-old girl on two occasions. He also allegedly invited her to have sex through Facebook, SeaCoastOnline.com reports.
Kimber was fired days after officials found graphic images of his naked body parts on a school server, but they later learned there may have been warning signs that police withheld during Kimber’s background check.
Superintendent of Schools Ed McDonough told SeaCoastOnline.com that Kimber’s fingerprints were sent to state police and his criminal history came back clean. At his arraignment this week, however, it was revealed he has previous convictions for misdemeanor assault, failure to appear in court, and operating a vehicle with a suspended license, the news site reports.
“ … McDonough later said the School Department was unaware of those convictions because state law limits what state police can disclose in response to schools’ requests for criminal background checks,” according to the news site.
New Hampshire State Police Lt. Nicole Armaganian said the school district “did what it was supposed to do,” but school employee background checks are limited by law to felony convictions and other specific crimes, including capital murder, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, aggravated felonious sexual assault, felonious sexual assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, incest, endangering the welfare of a child, indecent exposure, prostitution and other offenses.
Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief Corey MacDonald told the news site it’s obvious that school employees with access to children should be subjected to a full background check “so the hiring entity can make a decision with all the facts.”
If Kimber’s criminal history would have came back with several convictions, even misdemeanor convictions for less serious crimes, it certainly would have prompted school officials to look a little closer into his background and probably seek other candidates.
It’s the perfect example of how schools have drifted away from their intended focus of providing students with a safe and stimulating learning environment. Thanks to stupid laws and union protections, employee rights now trump student safety.
Emerson-Brown seems to understand that “we need to ensure our children are in a safe environment,” and that will require lawmakers to give school officials all of the details about potential employees.