Background checks for school contractors - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Background checks for school contractors

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October 25, 2006

Albany - - Teachers and faculty members in Dougherty County schools have to go through background checks in order to work at a school.

But right now, construction workers and other contractors can come into schools and the district has no policy to identify whether they have a criminal background. 

With several recent violent attacks at schools nationwide, school officials are thinking of ways to step up safety.

Your child's school can be a busy place with people coming and going throughout the day. But do you know who is really working at the school?

"We have a lot of contractors and subcontractors working with us. So there's ongoing work in many of our facilities each and every day so it's an important step for the board to take," says Superintendent Sally Whatley.

She wants the Board to adopt a new, tough policy restricting contractors with any serious criminal conviction from working at a school.

Whatley says nothing in particular happened to make the school district take a look at this, but that it's best to be proactive than reactive. At least one board member, though, says the proposed guidelines are too restrictive.

"If a person raises a hammer at someone at a construction site, that constitutes aggravated assault under Georgia law to me that's minor and we should not prohibit folks from working on our campuses for something that simple," says Board Chairman Willie Weaver .

Weaver adds that many times construction workers can only find jobs based on their background in construction and the proposed policy could single them out.

"Involuntary manslaughter often times is a person doing self defense or getting in a struggle over a gun and someone end up getting killed, it's not a murder so I think we should look at those cases individually and not cause people to look at their jobs because they have a conviction," Weaver says.

The proposal covers specific offenses, mainly violent crimes ranging from murder to making terroristic threats. If a worker convicted of one of those crimes comes on campus, a school representative can throw them to the curb.

"It's important that any and every person that comes into our buildings for an extensive period of time, we know who they are and we know about their background and can ensure that our children and staff members are safe," Whatley says.

The policy covers convictions at any time in a worker's life for most sex offenses and crimes such as murder and armed robbery. Convictions on crimes such as public indecency and aggravated assault must have occurred in the past ten years for a worker to be banned from campuses.

The proposal is under review now. The School Board plans to vote on it next month.

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