Report: Sex Offenders Slip Into School Systems 12-16-2010 - WNEM TV 5

Report: Sex Offenders Slip Into School Systems 12-16-2010

A federal report shows more than a dozen people with a record of sexual misconduct have been able to slip through cracks in background checks, sometimes because of the type of check that was done.
So TV5 reporter Aisha Howard made calls to see what's being done to keep Mid-Michigan kids safe while they’re in a classroom.
The idea of sex offenders slipping into the school system scares local parents like Jeanette Cassell. She said she tells her children to be very cautious.
"Oh yes, I teach her, ‘Do not talk to no one, no strangers,’" said Jeanette. "If somebody stops [their car], you start hollering. Yell. Tell everybody in the neighborhood about it."
A new federal investigation points to 15 cases in other states where people with histories of sexual misconduct were hired by school systems. In some cases, they used those jobs to abuse more children.
And while those cases happened across the country, TV5 wanted to know what's going on in Michigan and how parents feel about their kids’ protection.
"In Saginaw Public Schools, it’s a requirement that we do FBI background checks on all of our staff," said Safiya Mosley, information services specialist for Saginaw Public Schools.
"Oh, that makes me very happy,” said parent Katrina Casarez. “I wasn't even aware that they were allowing that to happen to begin with."
Here is how the bad guys fell through the cracks in some states. First, some districts used the cheaper, less thorough background checks which do not cross state lines. Second, other states didn't conduct background checks at all.
That's not the case here in Michigan, where school districts check a national database. Those tests are more expensive. But the potential employee is required to foot the bill. School volunteers are also monitored closely.
"Any volunteers that come into the district are given what we call I-Chats -- Internet Criminal History," said Mosley.
While some parents are still on edge, others are confident the screening practices work.
"It makes me feel good that someone is trying to help these young people and stop all these sex offenders from coming in here," said Cassell.
TV5 also checked with other local school districts. Both Midland and Bay City also use the FBI fingerprinting database.
For a full rundown and more information on the new report, click here.
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