Tougher vetting eyed for teachers
At least two New Hampshire lawmakers say changes may need to be made to state statute.
Christopher LeBlanc, 29, was arrested last month and charged with four counts of felonious sexual assault stemming from an alleged relationship with a 14-year-old student. Claremont officials were unaware when LeBlanc was hired last year that he had pleaded guilty in 2006 to one count of conspiracy to transmit stolen goods, for which he paid a $100 fine.
Today, the vast majority of school districts request to be informed of all felonies in applicants' records, according to Jeff Kellett, the chief administrator of the state police Criminal Records Unit. He said 80 of the state's 101 school administrative units request to be notified of all felonies, and 32 private schools do so. When the state first adopted the mandatory record check for school employees 15 years ago, only a handful of districts sought the additional felony information. (Kellett said he couldn't release the names of school districts that request all felony information because of the confidentiality rules of his office.)
In Massachusetts, by contrast, the state police provide local school officials with the entire criminal file, known as Criminal History Record Information (CHRI). The records, according to the Massachusetts law, are to include any "arrest, detention, complaint, indictment, information or other formal criminal charge relating to an identifiable person ... as well as the disposition of any charges."
New Hampshire Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said she needed to further investigate the Claremont case, but she said it was concerning.
"I think it's well worth looking into and taking a study on, to look at how this could impact individual employers, and in the case of schools, the safety of children," she said.
It's not clear how the state's largest school district, Manchester, handles background checks for prospective teachers and other employees. District officials said they followed the state law, but did not respond specifically to the question of whether they sought criminal information beyond what the New Hampshire State Police is required to furnish.
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