(KCPW News) State lawmakers and education officials yesterday heard the recommendations of a legislative audit that found 17 convicted criminals working in Utah public schools. Dr. Larry Shumway, Deputy Superintendent of the State Board of Education, says the office is already working to implement the recommendations.
"We completely agree with the sense of urgency that has been expressed on this and have every intention of moving forward as quickly as possible," said Shumway.
The audit recommends the board require all public education employees to submit to periodic background checks and self disclose any arrests. The board has already approved this for non-licensed employees and will vote next month on a requirement for licensed employees.
Shumway said the Utah State Office of Education is also working with the Department of Public Safety to create an audit-recommended, and already statutorily required, fingerprint database and notification process.
The audit also recommends the board strengthen it's guidelines of criminal activities that would preclude someone from being employed in public schools.
Representative Greg Hughes of Salt Lake County said this is one area where lawmakers and education officials can't afford to fail.
"I think this is an area where we better be perfect because I have a hard time imagining the conversation with the parent when something would happen. Not if, but when, because those that are not flagged by criminal background checks, crimes do occur. If you're working with and around children, if you work in a public school, I think this is a standard that just has to be there," said Hughes.
The audit also recommends lawmakers consider requiring all current public school employees hired prior to 1994, before checks were required, to submit to a criminal background check. Shumway says these checks could be problematic under current statute.