NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- In responding to a recent audit report by the New York State Office of the State Comptroller, City officials stated that one of the reasons they were not performing background checks on youth personnel is that many of the personnel were school district employees.
New Rochelle said their knowledge of an individual as a community member and their reliance on an individual’s employment by a school district as evidence that the individual’s fitness had been reviewed already. As Talk of the Sound has demonstrated repeatedly, the New Rochelle Board of Education routinely employs people with criminal histories or fails to do background checks, or both.
According to the OSC report,
New Rochelle did not perform background checks for employees unless it was mandated believed that the application process itself was a deterrent to persons who could jeopardize children’s safety. These officials further attributed the lack of background check procedures to limited resources, overall knowledge of the individual, lack of a State requirement, and an individual’s employment by a school district.
New Rochelle hired contract workers to staff youth programs, but did not have a process for vetting these workers’ criminal history or sex offender status.
A Child Safety Pilot Program, part of the Federal Child Protection Improvements Act of 2011 illustrate the need to verify that persons who work in children’s programs, including volunteers, have not committed sex offenses or other crime. Out of 68,000 volunteers screened more than 4,000 volunteer applicants (6 percent) had a criminal history of concern, including offenses such as sexual abuse of minors, assault, child cruelty, murder, and serious drug offenses. 41 percent of these individuals had criminal histories from other states, which local name-based checks would not have identified. 50 percent of these individuals had falsely indicated on their applications that they did not have a criminal history.
From the OSC report:
Under New York State law background checks are currently required for individuals who have contact with children in schools, camps, childcare programs, and therapeutic programs. State law requires11 school districts to conduct background checks on individuals who deal with students. The Public Health Law requires operators of children’s camps to determine whether camp employees or volunteers are listed on the Registry. This check, which DCJS conducts on names submitted by the municipality, must be completed prior to the day the individual starts work at the camp and annually thereafter. Social Service Law requires that criminal histories be reviewed for childcare providers and inquiry made whether individuals who have the potential for regular or substantial contact with children in the childcare program are not on file with the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. Finally, the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) requires that providers of therapeutic programs obtain a criminal background check for all individuals working in the programs with regular or substantial contact with people with developmental disabilities
Current State laws do not require municipalities to conduct background checks on all individuals who deliver youth program services, a reasoned assessment of the potential risks to children and the fact that similar requirements exist for related
programs demonstrates the value of the practice.
The OSC says they ran background checks on all 1,994 individuals identified as providing services to youth programs in the municipalities audited to determine if there was a public record documenting either a sex offense or a criminal history for any of them. Their testing did not identify any individuals with criminal or sex offender histories.