Thursday, March 21, 2013

Are the Vetting Measures in Seattle Schools HR Adequate?

It would seem something is amiss.

From Q-13 News:

The 12-year-old special education student at Hamilton International Middle School reported the alleged incident Wednesday to school officials, who called police.

The substitute teacher isn’t employed by the school district, but a spokesperson said he won’t get any other assignments in the district until the police investigation is complete.

The boy, who is not being identified since he is underage, said the alleged incident happened between classes while he was alone in a bathroom with the substitute teacher.

The details are troubling and thank goodness this student said "stop" to the teacher and went and told other adults.  Those adults rightly called the police but it is unclear from this report if the teacher was arrested.  Oddly, the district says the sub wasn't employed by the district.  I'm not sure what to make of that.

But an HIMS parent reports that this same teacher was in her child's 8th grade class and is alleged to have done this:

Apparently, this man made inappropriate and suggestive comments to some of the girls, made reference (and invitation?) to his beach house, commented on one girl's looks, gave one girl a lollipop, compared one girl to his wife, and told inappropriate stories of a sexual nature.

All this follows on the heels of a hire at Roosevelt for a girls softball coach who, just days into the job, had girls on the team scouting for a "girlfriend" for him.  He was let go.

So here are some questions from this parent (maybe you know, I'll ask in HR):

1. Does the district do a background check on everyone who applies to be a substitute in SPS? If not, why not?  (I'd guess yes.) 

2. How does Seattle Public Schools screen substitute teachers for aberrant and inappropriate behavior?

3. Who is responsible for vetting substitute teachers?

4. What does it take to become a substitute in Seattle Public Schools?

5. Also, why are adults permitted to use the students' restrooms? I believe Hamilton has a staff restroom. Is there no district policy that mandates adults use separate facilities instead? If not, why not?  (Again, I'm thinking the answer is no, particularly for staff.) 

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is troubling. I don't really understand the fact that this person wasn't an employee of the district. What does that mean? Who else teaching at our schools isn't an employee of the district?

Also, the Roosevelt thing has been bugging me, too. That coach had already been fired from his previous job for similar sexual inappropriateness. Why on earth would SPS hire him to coach a girls' team? I can't even wrap my brain around the thinking that would have gone into that hire.

Hamilton mom

Anonymous said...

How can a person not be employed by the district and still substitute teach? This is either wrong or not explained well. There is a sub pool and perhaps technically they are not official district employees but private contractors?

mc

Anonymous said...

A link to the Seattle Schools Substitute Handbook:

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/human%20resources/substitutes/substitutehandbook12-13.pdf

a reader

Anonymous said...

Female teachers in the girls restroom (closed stall doors) can deter misbehavior such a vandalism and worse (if girls know teachers come in from time to time, it makes the restroom an unfavorable place to bully/fight and so forth). However, the boys bathroom is a different story. The actual set up is different and presents opportunities for moments of "inappropriateness"- real or perceived. "Awkward" is a word that comes to mind.
Teachers already have to "suffer" bladder problems because of the schedule and demand for classroom supervision. I don't know if a blanket policy for which restroom is a good/healthful idea. I am willing to bet that male teachers who value their jobs already use the teacher's restroom exclusively. The potential for "situations" is just too great for them to chance it.
-common sense must rule

Anonymous said...

Subs are independent contractors essentially. Though they go through the same up to date background checks everyone who gets paid to work in a school takes. It's pretty rigorous.

As a male teacher it simply doesn't make sense to use the communal restrooms. It's not effectively any different than a movie theater bathroom as people of all ages can use it appropriately at the same time. But one allegation later that more convenient place to go to the bathroom seems an unwise choice.

Whether or not it's true will be determined by the facts but I'll tell you that no matter the outcome good luck getting a sub in that building/classroom again.

-Radioactive

suep. said...

Radioactive, what did you mean by this? "...Whether or not it's true will be determined by the facts but I'll tell you that no matter the outcome good luck getting a sub in that building/classroom again."?

I certainly hope you are not blaming the kids for this man's behavior and removal.

By the way, there were multiple witnesses who can attest to the classroom behavior of this guy which Melissa cited above.

mirmac1 said...

That explains why the Asst Supt of HR, Paul Apostle, was falling all over himself at the last Oversight session, saying they do "triple" background checks. Wouldn't be the first time I questioned his veracity...

Anonymous said...

@ SueP

What I am saying is that the Law will determine if this did or did not actually happen. I will neither attack the accused nor will I attack the student. I'm not going to pre-judge an incident I'm not knowledgeable about.

However, about the sub? If you've got a building where there was recently an accusation it becomes incredibly difficult to find a sub to fill in. Subs don't have to accept your job posting. So why work in a building where there are these issues and this stress on the school community? They'll pick another one...that's all I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

I doubt this incident would keep subs from choosing Hamilton. Based on the multiple reports, it doesn't seem fabricated. Perhaps male subs will just be sure not to put themselves in the same situation.

Anonymous said...

It is really weird to say "so why work in a building where there are these issues and this stress on the school community? They'll pick another one...that's all I'm saying." The building doesn't appear to have issues (well, at least not this sort). I have never heard of any other allegations of staff impropriety at HIMS. A report of inappropriate behavior by a single person doesn't constitute 'issues' Why would any other substitute (with nothing to hide/not anticipating getting up to any of any dodgy behavior) worry about this?

Sniffy

Anonymous said...

I'm a sub (female) and I sometimes use the kids bathrooms...usually for one of the following reasons:

1. I only have 3 minutes and the staff bathroom is really far away. Or my feet hurt.
2. I'd have to go outside to get to the staff bathroom and the weather's poor.
3. I'm not sure where the staff bathroom is.

Plus, some schools, particularly older ones, have woefully inadequate staff restrooms. There's one school, not in the Seattle district, that literally has ONE women's stall, and for some reason, females refuse to use the men's room, even though it's also a single-user with a locking outer door.

Also, to get hired as a sub, you fill out the standard teacher's application and write some essays...no interviews or anything like that. I didn't get fingerprinted, but that may have been because I fell into the "fingerprinted within 6 months" bucket.

Other Sub

Just sayin' said...

The Human Resources Department has become a sham and is neither human nor very resourceful.

Apostle is a hypocrite and has survived by simply telling the Board (who really don't appear to want to know) whatever he thinks they want to hear. Staff provide cover for him as he's forced out anyone with real credentials in the field.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"...where there are these issues ..."

Like Hamilton is a hotbed for false accusations? I'd think as a teacher (sub or not), this kind of thing can go with the territory and unless a school has some record of accusations, I wouldn't damn the school for one incident.

Jet City mom said...

They don't interview subs?
I would like to see dedicated subs assigned to a school, where they were interviewed & where it was considered a path to employment, to ya know- teach a class instead of playing hall monitor.

Anonymous said...

Okay Substitute Teacher weighing in. I have a State issued license, meaning fingerprints and FBI check. It is required STATE LAW. SPS requires a Substitute to be issued a Sub license which is the same ostensibly as a Teacher's license only it allows us to teach all grades and subjects unlike a "regular" teacher. We make less money, have no job security, no health care, no sick leave, no benefits of any kind. Don't work, don't get paid.

No person can be a "substitute teacher" in a classroom. There are however volunteers from agencies and other groups who frequently are in schools, their vetting process I have no clue. Many show up in rooms and I ask them to not do anything. I don't know who they are. Many IA's are substitutes who have no "licenses" and are vetted differently and are often utter morons with no real skills or any credentials.

So DO NOT BLAME Substitute Teachers here.

As for the district and its HR department - joke, farce or whatever adjective you wish to apply.

Take a look at some of the hires in Administration for example. The fraud the corruption, need I say more.

As for Hamilton I used to love that school then the ex Admin who was there destroyed it. It will take the same number of years to fix what he did in his tenure there. As a result the Staff and kids all suffer. I quit going there. There is enough work for Subs who enjoy and do their job.

How many false accusations have come from Hamilton? I bet plenty over the last few years. Recall the one at Leschi or any other. I bet there are numerous ones at many other schools. So how can you find the needle in this haystack. There may be nuts like the Roosevelt coach but then there are many who simply like the Center House teacher find themselves the tempest in the teapot and the next thing the Dept of Ed and Justice Dept have decided YOU are the problem.

This district is a hot mess of garbage. I see it all the time I know it and when you are one step removed from a day laborer you are an easy target for kids who need help and for Teachers to distract from the larger problem at hand.

- Day Laborer

Jet City mom said...

Im not blaming the teachers, I am blaming a process which apparently thinks that any adult who meets the on paper criteria should be allowed to teach children all day without a personal interview.

Many jobs have so many applicants that the interview process takes months before they are hired or cut loose.

This does not seem like a good place to cut corners.

Ed said...

HR needs to cut corners (for kids) in order to afford even more administrators.

Anonymous said...

@ Day Laborer, my guess is the sub teacher wasn't you. So why fret? Don't think people are going after sub teachers as a group. After reading your post, I can see why you had a problem with the Ex-Admin there.

spout

Jet City mom said...

After reading your post, I can see why you had a problem with the Ex-Admin there.

Which is why, I think we need interviews.
Substitute work is seen as the step toward getting hired into the district. If we don't clean up the sub pool, we lower the quality of the hiring pool.

Some subs Ive seen will never be hired into the classroom, but why should they be " responsible" for our children at all?

joanna said...

I don't understand how a sub could not be a District employee. Volunteers, especially in the school or for field trips, had to go through a background check the last I was involved (2005). The District is responsible to make sure that these background checks are done and should never relinquishment that responsibility. I am aware that they have sometimes used volunteers through non profits who were suppose to do the background checks, and I am not sure that the District insisted on a copy of the background check. If not, that is a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Spout,

Thanks for confirming what I know about this blog, raging parents who like to talk and their kids are a reflection of them..

I don't work in the district any longer too screwed up for my tastes. But Substitutes are largely retired or ex teachers working part time. Some are former Student teachers who got into the pool waiting to be hired. Maybe 10% or less are actual full time Subs that want a job as a Teacher. Sorry but you don't make a living as a day laborer so you move on. When you are retired you have supplemental income.

As I said I don't work for the district anymore but the same goes for all of them. You are vetted, interviewed and all licenses are checked.

But this sounds like this weeks witch hunt. Another reason why I don't work in the district. Every week another blame seeking finger pointing muppet heading nonsense. Got two more months folks need to ratchet up the hysteria!

-Day Laborer

get a grip said...

Excuse me, non-raging HIMS parent here. My very-reliable 8th grader had this creep sub in her class that day. She mentioned all the weird stuff he did and said before I even knew this happened, and I thought, wow, that dude has no business being a sub in a middle school. This is no witch hunt. That dude had no business being anywhere near children. Possibly the poorest judgement regarding what is appropriate to say to children I have ever heard.

joanna said...

"You are vetted, interviewed and all licenses are checked." Yes, this is my understanding and my experience. However, I don't necessarily think anyone here is lying. But, lately it does seem that especially with the case of Roosevelt coming up and now this, that someone may not be treating red flags as seriously as they should or some one is ignoring the job on purpose. Whatever the case is, it does a disservice to all the teachers and subs who have gone through the process and do the job of teaching everyday.

Maureen said...

joanna

We think the reason someone could be a non-employee would be because the district is so lax about rules and policies (see Charlie) that principals can pretty much do whatever they want in buildings with no accountability to anyone and no one downtown can tell them what to do.

When ouir daughter was at Maple, they had a guy from the neighborhood that "creeped" several of her classmates (and her) out and had never been "vettted" by anyone but he wore a yellow traffic vest and just sort of hung around the school.

My husband complained several times to the principal (she's head of elementary principals now) but she never did anything about him.

Glad we got out. Mercer was much tighter.

Maureen said...

Hello Maureen! Can I ask you a big favor? I've been using my name on this blog for a very long time (though less often lately) and I'd really appreciate it if you could pick a different name to sign in with, just for the sake of clarity. Thank you!

The original Maureen