An audit of Educator Certification Background Checks finds current state law is not sufficient to ensure the safety of the state’s public school students.

State Auditor Susan Montee says the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which is responsible for making sure background checks are conducted on applicants for educator certificates and for reviewing background check results, is failing to do so.

Montee blames imprecise language in state law. She says that while state law requires applicants for most school district positions to have both a criminal history background check and a Family Care Safety Registry (FCSR) background check performed prior to having contact with a student, DESE is leaving the task to the State Highway Patrol, which is conducting only one of the two checks.

Montee recommends DESE work with the Legislature to fine tune the language to ensure that these checks are being made. Montee also raises concerns about a lack of periodic background checks. State law does not require any period reviews of backgrounds to determine whether new crimes or other offenses have been committed, and Montee believes that must change.

The audit also found inconsistencies with Social Security numbers in teacher certification databases. Hundreds of the numbers in the system are invalid. She says all of these problems can be addressed by the Legislature cleaning up any ambiguous language and making sure the laws are clear to protect kids.

Download/Listen: Steve Walsh report (:60 MP3)