Indiana's decision to delegate the screening of prospective teachers to local school districts is full of holes that sometimes allow sexual predators and other problematic instructors into the classroom.
An analysis by USA TODAY Network with Indy Star shows the policy remains in place even though school districts don’t have direct access to NASDTEC, a national clearinghouse of teacher discipline cases. Also, teachers can receive a license in Indiana before a detailed vetting of their background is completed.
The issue lies with no federal mandate to report to NASDTEC, or lack of a nationwide collection of data on teachers who abuse students, said Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation.
“The database is only as good as the information that goes into it — and again, it’s all voluntary,” Miller said.
"I think in terms of child safety, that is an area that we could work together as a state," Pierce said, "so that we really are diligent about protecting children." State officials defend Indiana's checks State law does require teachers, substitutes and other school personnel to submit to a background check as they are being hired by a school district.
Indiana Department of Education officials say they immediately report teachers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked to NASDTEC.
"We are taking a look at it and ensuring everything we have appropriate documentation on gets reported," Altman said. She said Hoosier teachers should go through a background check at licensure.
Currently, teachers are required to provide some background information when applying for their certification, but it’s not as detailed as the expanded criminal history check they go through once they are employed.
State education officials and lawmakers defend Indiana’s system, saying background checks are stronger now than in the past and should catch any applicants with troublesome histories.
“We do not hear complaints or suggestions from public school folks that the system isn’t working now,” said Risa Regnier, assistant superintendent of school support services for the Department of Education.