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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Searches of old criminal records end school jobs

The impact has been especially evident among nonteaching employees who, until this year, did not have to undergo the kind of comprehensive background checks done for teachers.

Now, staffers such as custodians, secretaries and cafeteria workers may face dismissal for newly unearthed offenses committed years ago.

John Reccord, a night supervisor for the Orange school district, has worked there for nearly two decades. But he stands to lose his job for an offense to which he pleaded guilty 35 years ago and was sentenced to probation.

"I have been at the school for 19 years without any problems," Reccord said. "This is going to affect people who did something when they were young. Why should they lose their jobs now?"

He is one of a handful of Orange school employees facing an uncertain future as a result of the background checks.

Statewide, it's unclear how many school employees are in a similar predicament. The Ohio Department of Education doesn't keep track of nonlicensed employees, and a union representing such nonteaching staff also had no tallies available.

Shaker Heights is among the area school districts grappling with the issue.

"We absolutely need to protect children by checking the background of school employees. The problem we're struggling with is that schools are being forced to let some exemplary employees go," said Robert P. Kreiner, business administrator for the Shaker Heights school district. [Mark Godsey]

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