Sexual Misconduct on Campus Part II: Background Checks

Vol. 5 No. 10

riskmanager eletter Vol5 No10 KatieK copy

Primary image credit to Vanguard Dahlonega

In Vol. 5. No. 8, we published Part I of this series on sexual misconduct. We started the series with an overview of common terms and external resources, laying the foundation to help schools create policies and protocols. In this second part, we’re going to focus on combating sexual violence with comprehensive background checks.

ISM has a standing relationship with Campus Outreach Services (COS). This organization serves over 3,000 schools, military bases, and organizations throughout North America, teaching student safety best practices. Over the years, Martin Kelly, President of ISM Insurance, has partnered with COS to present on the risks schools face, best practices, and creating policies to protect students, faculty, staff, and schools as a whole. Together, we have delivered Webinars and full-day training to schools on sexual misconduct awareness. The following information is summarized from this mutual work.

A little history about COS

COS’s Facebook page offers a nice summary of the organization’s history. For the complete story, click on the “About” tab and scroll down. For those interested in a summary, allow us to paraphrase here.

Katie Koestner founded COS after being victimized when she was 18 years old. Her story was the first date rape story to hit national news, appearing in Time magazine, Larry King Live, Oprah, MTV, CNN, NBC News, Good Morning America, and hundreds of other media outlets. In 1994, as Katie began touring campuses and organizations to share her story, like-minded people were attracted to her cause. Joined together, Campus Outreach Services began.

Currently based in Wayne, PA, COS works with hundreds of schools and organizations around the country each year to provide training and outreach services.

Sexual Violence Facts

  • One in 10 children will be molested before the age of 18.
  • Adults with disabilities are 3.4 times more likely to be abused.
  • 10% of school children are victims of sexual abuse.
  • 80% of abuse goes unreported.
  • Plaintiffs prevail in more than two-thirds of sexual abuse cases.

Best Practices: Background Checks

The first article in our series addressed how to define sexual misconduct as the first step to reduce your school’s risks. Eliminating employee risks is your second defense against claims. Your school should have a policy on performing background checks for all vendors, contractors, volunteers, and full- and part-time personnel on campus. Even if an employee’s job description doesn’t include contact with students—such as an after-hours janitor, nighttime security guard, or contractor hired for work over the summer—background checks should still be a mandatory component of your hiring process.

COS training includes facts about criminal background checks—information of which many HR personnel are unaware.

  • Criminal records originate, and are most accurate, at the local county level.
  • There is no single “perfect” comprehensive criminal record search.
  • There is no such thing as a national commercial criminal records search.
  • Data sources matter.

Simply running one background check is insufficient. To reduce your school’s risk, several reports should be conducted before your new hire can start.

  • A National Sex Offender Registry Check
  • Child Protection Registry Check
  • A Social Security Number Trace
  • An alias check
  • County Criminal Records Search for all counties of residence for the past 10 years.

You should also carefully evaluate the source of your data. Examples of reliant data sources include:

  • county court records;
  • state records;
  • sex offender records;
  • administrative Office of the Courts;
  • the Department of Public Safety;
  • the Department of Corrections/Criminal Justice;
  • the Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon; and
  • various national security databases such as America’s Most Wanted and Terrorist Watch List.

There are numerous online resources available. However, use caution and common sense when selecting sources; avoid free sites and those offering background checks on “sale.”

You’ll also want to have your school’s lawyer confirm your chosen data sources, approve your permissions document for running background checks (all persons have a right to know the nature and scope of the investigation), and review the written policy in your employee handbook for screening new employees. If you make a change to the databases you use, your documentation must also be updated.

Background checks must be completed for ALL potential new employees, not just for the safety of your students, faculty, staff, and school, but also because you must treat all employees and potential employees equally. Screening cannot be biased on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, age, or genetic information (including family medical history). These reports should be held on record for seven years, or your state’s required allotment of time.

For more information about legal compliance concerning background checks, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s online publication.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Risk Managers Vol. 5 No. 8 Sexual Misconduct on Campus Part I: Defining Sexual Misconduct
ISM Monthly Update for School Heads Vol. 13 No. 3 Keep Your School Safe From Sexual Assault

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 36 No. 3 Addressing Bullying and Sexual Misconduct
I&P Vol. 30 No. 7 Revisit Your School’s Policy Concerning Child Sexual Abuse

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