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Horizon addressing criminal record checks

Posted on October 29, 2015 by Vauxhall Advance

By Nikki Jamieson
Vauxhall Advance

The Horizon School Board is creating a new policy on police information checks.

The policy, better known as GAB, states that all new employees must submit to a police background check – better known as a criminal record check – along with any volunteers who work and will be alone with students.

“As part of the review of the policy, there’s also been that notion of what is the purpose of criminal record checks,” said Wilco Tymensen, HSB superintendent.

“Is it simply due diligence, in terms of ensuring that individuals that you bring into a school environment that they do not have a criminal record or are not a danger to children? Or is it more along the lines of actually protecting children?”

The current practice for HSB is that they perform a background check once, during the hiring process for teachers or vetting volunteers. The issue with that though, is that after the check is proformed, there is no way of knowing if an individual commits a crime during their time working.

“If I get a criminal record check today, and I am charged tomorrow, and we say we only need a criminal record check once, my status could change and yet, there’s nothing happening and it’s outdated the day after I get it,” said Tymensen.

The new policy states that individuals, whether they are employees or volunteers who work closely with children, will have to inform their employer if there is a change in their criminal status.

Principals will also have the ability to request that a check be done on volunteers who don’t work with children.

Employees will also have to self-declare their criminal status on a form – the same form they currently declare their intent for employment on for the following year – that states if there has or hasn’t been a change in their criminal status, on a yearly basis. Failure to do so will result in termination.

The police information check has two main areas; a criminal record check – which is for criminal records and charges – and a vulnerable sector check – which verifies criminal records and if there has been any suspensions for sexual offences.

In addition to the background checks, there will also be a child intervention check – which looks into whether or not an individual has been involved in an incident where child welfare services were called – proformed as well.

That doesn’t mean that having a criminal history automatically means that there is immediate grounds for dismissal, or as a reason to not hire some; every person checked would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, to determine if there is a risk to the children.

“If our policy said, we would not hire individuals who have a criminal record, there are individuals who were 18 years old and protesting somewhere, against, I don’t know, the Liberals getting into power… And they may have been unlawful, did illegal acts to get a criminal record, and they’re 45 now, and they’ve been an upstanding citizen, and they would not qualify for employment,” said Tymensen.

“So it depends on what is the situation, how long ago is your criminal record, what is the content of that record and we decide then whether or not it fits.”

The policy is currently tabled, as it awaits further discussion and changes.

“Right now, my comment would be, given that we already have practice in place, it’s just a matter of building a policy around what practice actually is, and in my mind enhancing it, to further ensure the safety of students. Let’s make sure we do it right, before we move forward with it.”

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