INDIANAPOLIS — Within days of each other this month two central Indiana high school coaches were arrested and charged with dealing and possession of drugs.
The schools that hired both coaches confirmed they both passed background checks. Mike McCarty’s company Safe Hiring Solutions conducted the background check for one.
McCarty said he and his team do background checks for more than 65% of the schools in Indiana and more across the country. He said Indiana has some of the more thorough background check laws when it comes to school employees.
”It probably has some of the most complex requirements of most states across the country,” McCarty said.
MCarty said there are levels to the background checks school employees go through.
”They have to identify who the person is, where they’ve lived, any names they’ve been known by other than the name they’ve submitted,” he said. “This runs through a national database of criminal records and then it goes through each county where they have ever lived.”
Marquise Feldman passed a background check at Plainfield Schools. He used to be an assistant football coach at Plainfield High School before he was let go earlier this month because of drug dealing charges.
Court docs from New York show Feldman had a criminal contempt charge for violating a protective order, but that charge was not found by the criminal background check.
McCarty said he searched name and case number and the charge does not show up in the New York system. Upon further investigation, Safe Hiring Solutions determined the charges were never entered into the system.
“It turns out it had not been entered into the public access terminal,” McCarty said.
McCarty said this human error is something they seen more of since the start of the pandemic.
”You’ve had courts that have gone remote for long periods of time, staffing issues, so we’re starting to see slightly more mistakes like this than we had seen prior to the pandemic,” he said.
McCarty said Safe Hiring Solutions and Plainfield Schools did their due diligence with Marquise Feldman but background checks can sometimes fall short.
“Background checks are only as good as the government information that exists, so it’s either there or it’s not there,” McCarty said.
These investigations are not absolute. Doug Kouns, former FBI agent and current CEO of private investigation firm Veracity IIR said they put disclaimers on their background checks.
“Just because we didn’t find anything doesn’t mean they’re not going to do something bad,” Kouns said. “It just means they haven’t done anything yet or they have not been caught.”
Which fits with the case of now suspended Beech Grove Head Basketball Coach Mike Renfro. Renfro was arrested for dealing and possession of cocaine on Monday. He appears to not have any prior criminal history and Beech Grove Schools officials said he passed a background check.
Kouns said it’s always a good idea to have more deterrents than just background checks to ensure employees are who they say they are.
”The past is a pretty good indication but it’s not foolproof,” Kouns said.
McCarty said another way Indiana has a leg up on other states in background checks for teachers is a five year recheck law. He said it was passed in 2017 and mandates schools background check all employees every five years.
”Background screening as a whole, it’s not a one and done process, it needs to be a continuous process,” McCarty said.