Background checks reveal 14 Boston school support staff with criminal records

The Boston School Department has identified 14 employees who have faced criminal charges, prompting school officials to either fire them or place them on administrative leave, according to a report presented Wednesday night to the School Committee.

School officials in an interview declined to identify the employees or say which schools they worked at, citing state employment privacy laws. But they said the workers were all support staff, and the charges that showed up on their criminal records included possession of drugs or assault and battery.

Two employees also faced rape charges in the distant past, but were not convicted, officials said.


In many cases, the employees admitted facts sufficient for a jury to find them guilty as part of a settlement to prevent a conviction from appearing on their records.

The most recent charge was from 2009. Most were from 2005 or earlier. School officials uncovered the problems while conducting a systemwide review of criminal records of all 9,000 employees, as part of an effort to tighten background checks. So far, officials have checked about 6,000 employees.

Most of the information was presented to the School Committee at its meeting Wednesday night during a presentation on a new policy on employee background checks. That policy will let school officials consider nonconvictions, particularly if a person seems to have had multiple run-ins with police.

Currently, school officials can only deny employment for certain kinds of convictions, such as murder.

“This list demonstrates precisely why we are digging deeper into all of our files over many years,’’ Superintendent Carol Johnson said in a statement. “As you will see, many of these charges were what the courts themselves deemed as nonconvictions, often well in the past.’’

Joseph Shea, deputy superintendent of operations, told the School Committee that the 14 individuals are not “working in schools right now.’’

“They have a right to come in and get a copy of the CORI, and they have a right to dispute the CORI,’’ Shea said, noting such cases go to the Supreme Judicial Court. “If in fact it’s incorrect, they have a right to correct it.’’


Johnson moved to update the security policy in February after a series of hiring decisions raised questions about how carefully the School Department vets job applicants and how quickly it responds when an employee faces legal troubles.

School Committee members appeared receptive to the new policy, which requires their approval.

The Rev. Gregory Groover, a School Committee member, said, “We can never be too careful in making sure our children will be safe, but at the same time I hope there is always fair due process for our employees.’’

Mary Tamer, another member, pushed for the addition of financial background checks on employees who oversee large sums of money.

The criminal background checks was one of several proposals discussed.

School officials presented a proposed policy on health and wellness programs that would require classes on sex education and would make condoms available at all high schools, instead of just those with community health centers. About 20 students, advocates, and city health officials spoke in favor of the proposal.

School officials also announced a proposal to reopen the Higginson Building in Roxbury, which closed in 2009 after it merged with the Lewis Middle School. Under the proposal, the Higginson would serve students in kindergarten through grade 2 to help accommodate an increase of 1,000 students in those grades.



This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on