A closer look at school background checks after the arrest of two coaches

INDIANAPOLIS — Within days of each other this month, two high school coaches in central Indiana were arrested and charged with drug trafficking and possession.

The schools that hired the two coaches confirmed that they both passed background checks. Mike McCarty’s company, Safe Hiring Solutions, did the background check for one.

McCarty said he and his team do background checks on more than 65% of schools in Indiana and more across the country. He said Indiana has some of the most thorough background check laws when it comes to school employees.

“It probably has some of the most complex requirements of most states in the country,” McCarty said.

MCarty said there were levels in the background checks of school employees.

“They need to identify who the person is, where they lived, any names they were known by other than the name they submitted,” he said. “It goes through a national criminal records database and then through every county they’ve lived in.”

Marquise Feldman passed a background check at Plainfield Schools. He was an assistant football coach at Plainfield High School before being fired earlier this month on drug trafficking charges.

New York court documents show Feldman had a criminal contempt charge for violating a protective order, but that charge was not found by criminal background checks.

McCarty said he looked up the name and case number and the charge did not appear in the New York system. After further investigation, Safe Hiring Solutions determined that the fees were never entered into the system.

“Turns out it wasn’t entered into the public access terminal,” McCarty said.

McCarty said this human error is something they’ve seen more of since the pandemic began.

“You’ve had courts that have been away for long periods of time, staffing issues, so we’re starting to see a few more mistakes like this than we saw before the pandemic,” he said. -he declares.

McCarty said Safe Hiring Solutions and Plainfield Schools did their due diligence with Marquise Feldman, but background checks can sometimes fail.

“Background checks are only as good as the government information that’s out there, so it’s either there or it’s not there,” McCarty said.

These investigations are not absolute. Doug Kouns, a 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 won’t do something wrong,” Kouns said. “It just means they haven’t done anything yet or they haven’t been caught.”

Which corresponds to the case of Mike Renfro, head coach of Beech Grove, now suspended. Renfro was arrested on Monday for trafficking and possession of cocaine. He appears to have no 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 make sure 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 is getting ahead of other states when it comes to teacher background checks is through a five-year cross-check law. He said it was passed in 2017 and required schools to conduct background checks on all employees every five years.

“The background check as a whole is not a one-time process, it has to be an ongoing process,” McCarty said.

Carol C. Reed