Who are our teachers? - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Who are our teachers?

August 22, 2006

Valdosta  --  With the arrest of a former teacher in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, there's renewed attention on how schools check out teachers they hire.        

Ensuring the safety of students is the top priority of school administrators. That starts with making sure children are in safe hands with their teachers.  

"I think the public sees this as a very serious issue as well and they don't take this lightly. Neither do we," says Maude Johnson, Personnel Director of the Valdosta School System. 

"Yes, you should be concerned about the welfare of your children no matter where they are. In school or out of school," said Randy Cooper, Executive Director of Human Resources for the Lowndes Co. School System.

Administrators take extra care to keep sex offenders and other criminals out of the classroom. It starts from the day teachers walk in the door and ask for a job. "We ask for a minimum of three references, and there are also letters sent in by people who serve as references for the applicants," says Johnson.

If those references check out, candidates must submit their fingerprints and undergo state and national criminal background checks.  "Hopefully those two things screen out the large majority of people wanted to get into teaching with a criminal background or behavior that's unacceptable for that profession," Cooper says.

These background checks are re-run every five years of each teacher's career.

Like many systems, Valdosta and Lowndes County schools also provide resource officers to all middle and high schools. "Our resource officers at the schools, our superintendents, good board members, good principals and administrators support this. In addition to that we have great teachers always looking out for something that may go wrong," said Cooper.

Luckily, nothing has gone wrong in Valdosta or Lowndes County Schools, and they hope these steps will help keep it that way.

Substitute teachers must also go through the screening process before they set foot in the classroom.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=SafeTeachers/AE


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