Some 2,500 employees working in Michigan schools have been convicted of crimes, including sexual assault, homicide, and kidnapping, says a report of recent criminal background checks obtained by The Detroit News. A search of about 200,000 current school employees through the Michigan State Police criminal history database revealed more than 4,600 criminal offenses, of which 2,200 were felonies. More than 100 were sex crimes, which are immediate grounds for dismissal under tougher school safety laws that went into effect Jan. 1. “I’m shocked at the number of crimes they found,” said a 53-year-old Ann Arbor father whose daughter had been sexually assaulted by her fourth-grade teacher.
The background checks were prompted by legislation called the Student Safety Initiative, designed to protect kids from sex offenders in the classrooms. It’s up to the school districts to determine whether anyone will be fired. Previously, only new teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, school psychologists, and bus drivers were required to have a background check. School districts say they can’t afford to pay for the criminal history checks, and employees have protested paying again. Margaret Trimer-Hartley of the Michigan Education Association said she’s waiting for the fingerprint data because name checks are not as “rock solid.” The background checks found 23 school employees had been convicted of homicide, 11 of child abuse, 10 of escaping jail or prison, 355 of drug felonies and 21 of armed robbery.