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Undisclosed criminal records raise concerns among teachers

Undisclosed criminal records raise concerns among teachers

Educators with undisclosed criminal convictions have been exposed.
In the classroom, the number of educators who have failed to report their felony convictions is growing, despite requirements in the 2019 policy.

According to the findings of the TPN Credit Bureau, a (small) group of educators was found to have a criminal record that they did not disclose.

TPN data revealed that 3.6% of teachers have a criminal record and that more than two-thirds do not report a previous conviction.

As of 2019, the policy requires all new teachers registering with the South African Council of Educators (SACE) to obtain and submit a police clearance certificate.

“It is worrying that about 26% of convicts have more than one conviction,” the office said.

If a background check reveals a conviction of a sexual nature against a minor or vulnerable person, she will be fired with immediate effect, the bureau added.

Teenage pregnancy is on the rise, some educators are immorally involved with the underage students they teach, and they are investigating who is allowed near the school and the child.

If the educator had been convicted of another offence, this should be referred to the SACE conviction list, which would prevent the educator from being successfully registered.

Depending on the nature of the conviction, school policy, and the employee agreement signed by the employee, disciplinary action may also follow.

Schools are required by law to conduct background checks on prospective educators and any other potential employees, including athletic coaches, administrators and campus staff, to ensure they are not listed on the National Sex Offender Registry and the National Child Protection Registry.

As a result of these requirements, the number of vetted educators has increased by 254% since 2019.

Waldo Marcus, TPN’s head of marketing and sales, says that despite this new revelation, since 2019 there has been a significant improvement in teacher background checks as required by policy.

“There’s been a massive jump from last year to this year, particularly within private schools and those public schools that pay tuition, who are turning to the authority to do a full background check on all staff,” says Marcus.

While part of the responsibility falls on employed educators to inform the appropriate authorities of any criminal convictions attached to their names, part of the responsibility also lies with the schools themselves and those who conduct the individual screenings.

One of the reasons these educators with felony convictions went undetected was the financial burden on public schools and how much money the Department of Education can spend as they cover the costs of conducting background checks.

“As you can imagine, some schools have 150 staff that need to be reviewed every other year, so ensuring within those budgets becomes critical,” says Marcus.

The ultimate responsibility, he says, rests with the school principal and/or school governing body, who must ensure that all procedures are followed.

The board warned that “headteachers who fail to carry out checks and employ staff with criminal records may themselves be held criminally and civilly liable for failing to fulfill their duty of care to children or those at risk”.

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