Petition to Martez Hill, Department of Education, D. Craig Horn, Jeffrey Elmore, Linda Johnson, Tricia Cotham, Edward Hanes, North Carolina Governor, Audrey Martin-McCoy, Rob Jansen
Keep teachers whose parental rights have been terminated by CPS out of the Classroom.
Currently, unlike over 30 states and the District of Columbia, North Carolina does not require, or even allow, review of Department of Social Services - Child Protective Service records for K-12 teachers and other child care workers. Background checks that require confidential CPS records review may reveal that the teaching candidate has lost parental rights to a child for abuse, neglect or endangerment. The hindrance to further protecting our state's children from those deemed by the state unfit to parent is found under G.S. 7B-3100 et. al., Disclosure of Information about Juveniles. Currently, under the regulations, schools may only request DSS records in reference to a specific child enrolled in their school. This should be expanded to include a requirement of review of any such records for a state license of teachers and be a requirement for hiring teachers or child-facing employees of all of schools and child care centers in the state. A common practice of DSS offices across the state is to make a “deal” to not press criminal charges under Child Abuse as a Felony (G.S. 14-318.4) in exchange for a voluntary action to sever all parental rights to the victim-child. This means there may be no criminal arrest or conviction that will appear on a conventional background check! Like many parents, I had assumed that North Carolina was checking into all possible sources that would reveal a history of child abuse and endangerment, and even drug addiction, because so many states do. Our neighbor, Virginia, for example, makes all of its schools request and review all Department of Social Services records involving any applicant. In Pennsylvania, teachers must request a protective services check be sent to the Department of Education as part of their teaching certification and all subsequent renewals. Indeed, expanding the licensure requirements of North Carolina educators is not a new area of concern to our state legislature. Perhaps you recall the Task Force on Teacher Ethics and Licensure Report: Raising the Bar for North Carolina Teachers, published on February 25, 2010. The intent of the DJJ statute in question is to keep state files involving minor children private, understandably, to protect the privacy of the children who suffer abuse and are the subject of Department of Social Services intervention. It does not, nor does any other law in North Carolina, require local school administration to request and review Department of Social Services case or other records involving a teaching candidate (or current teacher) to ensure the individual is morally fit, and physically safe to lead a classroom (or even be employed at school facilities). Background checks on teachers are handled at the local school district level in North Carolina (a practice that is uncommon among states that rank the highest in education). In a random poll I conducted under FOIA of 6 North Carolina school districts, all schools reported using at least a basic criminal background check service on all applicants, however, none of them reported having requested social services records, or even asking if one existed, that could uncover a history of child abuse, endangerment or neglect – because our state doesn’t yet provide for or require one. This is where I need your help! You can decide how our state should best address this gap and fix it! North Carolina is behind the curve in providing statutes, regulations, and protocols for solid background checks that ensure the moral and physical safety standards in the classroom that parents expect, and that employers and investors demand if they are going to bring needed capital and jobs to our state. School districts, can, and are, hiring people to teach our children who are willing to give up their child in exchange for the opportunity to, essentially, morally defraud the school system and the communities they serve about their criminal behavior. Surely our schools wouldn't hire someone convicted of the criminal offense, but our school administrators (and the children they serve) have no protection against those found guilty of the same actions as the felony crime by an agency other than the Department of Justice. Take the following scenario for an example of the incongruous nature of our current regulatory rule in practice: The police are called to a residence. Once there they witness the heartless endangerment, neglect or abuse of a young child by its parent. The police charge the responsible parent with child endangerment and the case goes to trial. The parent is found guilty of Child Abuse as a Felony under G.S. 14-318.4, and parental rights are terminated. Under our current state rules, it is highly unlikely that this parent will be hired as a teacher. However, take the exact same residence and facts of abuse except that Department of Social Services, not police, are called to the scene. Let's say they have been called to the same residence, about the same child and parent, multiple times. Imagine further that the systematic endangerment of the child is documented through an extensive social services investigation and intervention process. With all of the evidence in hand, the social worker, with the best long-term interest of the child in mind and heart, offers the parent a deal. If the unfit parent willingly gives up custody of the child, agreeing to the termination of all parental rights, and allows the child to be adopted, then no criminal charges will be filed. This parent can, and has been, hired in this state. Please make one of your 2017 priorities keeping teachers whose parental rights have been terminated as a result of Child Protective Services intervention out of North Carolina classrooms and child care centers!
Petition to Shaler Area School District
Save our Teachers
At the end of the 2015-2016 School Year, up to 30 teachers may be getting cut. The teachers in question are teachers who rise above the challenge of teaching our community, and encourage learning among those who have a hard time doing so. We must implore the district to change their decision on the teachers getting cut. Thank you for reading this petition.