After arrest of teacher with prior felony conviction, Claremont school chief to change policy
CLAREMONT — Superintendent Middletown McGoodwin is reviewing SAU 6's background screening after a Stevens High math teacher with a felony conviction was charged last month with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student.
Christopher LeBlanc's 2006 guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to transmit stolen goods in interstate commerce did not show up in a background check when he was hired last year.
Judith Fillion, director of the Division of Program Support for the New Hampshire Department of Education, said Wednesday that school officials have the option to see all felonies. Sometimes school districts elect "just to get the basics," she said.
"Possibly there could be more awareness," Fillion said. "It certainly highlights it for me. And certainly in any future training, I will mention that."
McGoodwin said electing to see all felonies was not something he was aware was a choice for the school district; he plans to request it in the future.
"I can promise you, from this experience, I am going to be exploring options to have more details," McGoodwin said. "I'm also interested in asking the New Hampshire School Board Association about the statute. I am looking at different options here. This is the first time in my three years here in this position that we have been disappointed in our screening."
McGoodwin said he previously worked in Massachusetts, where all involvement with law enforcement is reported in the background checks schools receive, including traffic tickets and even possession of alcohol as a teen.
Christopher LeBlanc, 29, of Claremont, is being held on $150,000 cash-only bail on four counts of felonious sexual assault stemming from an alleged relationship with a student. He was arrested March 21.
Jeff Kellett, chief administrator of the state police criminal records unit, said according to state law, only offenses that would bar employment such as murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, child pornography, child abuse or any other crimes having to do with children are reported to schools.
Kellett said an SAU or school district can request to be notified of all felonies.
Patrick Andrews, superintendent of the Mascoma Valley Regional School District, said Wednesday that LeBlanc worked as a substitute teacher for the district in 2005 and 2006.
His background check was conducted in December 2004 and would not have included the 2006 felony conviction, Andrews said.
"One year he worked 19 days and one year he worked seven days," Andrews said of LeBlanc.
Andrews said his school district elects to see all felonies and also asks former supervisors if job candidates have ever been investigated for improper behavior.
"Schools have to take this situation seriously," he said. "We can see all felonies and we do see all felonies here ... They are barred from teaching with certain charges."
The Mascoma school district has memorandums of understanding with local police to notify the school district if a school employee is arrested, Andrews said. But that system is not foolproof.
"If somebody were to get into some trouble in Vermont, I'm not sure there is a mechanism that alerts us," he said.
LeBlanc was arrested in 2005 for stealing items such as night vision goggles and lasers from his part-time security guard job at Insight Technology in Londonderry. According to court documents, he passed the goods to an accomplice who sold the items online, and arranged for some of the items "sold to be delivered in interstate commerce."
LeBlanc pleaded guilty and was fined $100.