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D.C. Public Schools nearly met its self-imposed deadline that 100 percent of school staff have cleared background checks by Oct. 1. With background checks expiring every day, DCPS also committed to a new alert system to maintain compliance.
In a letter sent to parents Wednesday afternoon, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee says 98 percent of school-based employees have active clearance as of Tuesday. He also committed to working toward 100 percent compliance for school and central staff.
“To ensure that we were keeping our students safe, we shared that no before or after school program provider would serve students in SY 19-20 without active clearances. We also committed to ensuring that all staff in our schools would have an active clearance by the end of September, and all staff in central office would have an active clearance by the end of October,” writes Ferebee.
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“We met our first milestone related to before and after school program providers, and we continue to ensure that all before and after school program provider staff are actively cleared before they join the teams serving our schools. Today, I am pleased to report that as of October 1, 98 percent of DCPS school-based employees have an active clearance, and we continue to work toward 100 percent compliance for school and central staff,” he continues.
To ensure staffers stay compliant with required background checks, DCPS also committed to establishing a system that automatically notifies staff within 60 days of an expiration. The system will warn them that they need to meet fingerprint scans and background checks so they maintain ongoing compliance.
Over the summer, the public learned that more than 30 percent of D.C. Public Schools staff have expired background checks. This estimate included teachers and central office workers, according to WAMU, which first reported the news. Since learning of this, parents have been demanding that schools provide more transparency.
Parents became especially concerned with background checks given reports of sexual misconduct in the press. WAMU reported that an after-school program teacher engaged in inappropriate behavior with a 13-year old girl and that the after-school program, Springboard Education, was unable to provide any documentation of cleared background checks for any of its employees. Springboard operated in two dozen public and charter schools, but those contracts ended after the reported incident.
“This transparency would not have happened without parents asking and pushing,” says Danica Petroshius, whose fourth and sixth graders attend Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, on Twitter. She also applauds the new alert system.
In the letter, Ferebee also said DCPS is implementing a new curriculum that includes lessons on consent. “We know that employee clearances are only the first step in keeping our students safe, so we have built capacity and systems at the school-level and instituted systems for immediate response and support when an incident occurs,” he writes.