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          Front Page




APS Panel Eyes Records

By Zsombor Peter
Journal Staff Writer
    An Albuquerque Public Schools task force recommends the district start taking extra steps to make sure its employees maintain clean records.
    All New Mexico school districts now screen new hires for criminal background, as required by a 1997 state law.
    Following a spate of sex abuse allegations against APS employees and substitute teachers this semester, the task force recommends the district keep a closer eye on the people it's already hired.
    The panel recommends the district require employees to report arrests to their supervisors, and that it purchase a $50,000 program to randomly check into their records.
    The Safe Schools Criminal Background Check program does not rely on fingerprints, as does the system used to screen new hires, human resources director Andrea Trybus said.
    What it does do, said spokesman Rigo Chavez, is allow the district unlimited access to more than 200 databases of public records for $3.50 a year per employee. He said more than 300 school districts use the program.
    The task force has yet to recommend how often to check employees.
    It also recommends the board adopt a new policy mandating that employees arrested of any felony or "offense involving moral turpitude" report to his or her supervisor within three days.
    Moral turpitude would include everything from dishonesty to fraud to "base, vile or depraved" sexual acts. Failure to immediately report such an arrest could get an employee fired.
    Trybus said the task force has not decided to whom the employee should report and what offenses would trigger termination.
    For employees hired before the 1997 law took effect, the task force recommends the district go back and check them as well.
    It's also recommending that substitute teachers be required to check in at their schools with picture IDs and use name tags.
    The district intends to work with the local teachers union to develop the details.
    Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein has said the random background checks couldn't hurt but wouldn't help catch pedophiles who have never been caught.