With four—that’s right, four—teachers charged with sexual misconduct in the Hillsborough School District this school year, residents and board members are questioning the district’s screening and hiring procedures.
Two of the four former teachers had criminal records before they started working for the school district.
Freedom High School teacher Mary Jo Spack—who allegedly had sex with a 17-year-old student after buying liquor and bringing him to a motel—revealed on her employment application that she had been charged with driving with a suspended license in 1994.
Tampa middle school teacher Stephanie Ragusa—charged with five counts of lewd and lascivious battery for having sex with a 15-year-old boy—omitted her criminal record on her application. A revealed a driving-under-the-influence charge in 2005, and an arrest for aggravated battery in 2004. Both charges were later dropped.
School officials hired Ragusa anyway, noting they look at each case individually.
Note: Generally, employers are constrained from considering criminal records that do not relate directly to the job in question. That’s not a terribly high bar to hurdle. You can insist that workers exercise good judgment and behave ethically—and weed out those whose criminal records clearly indicate they don’t.
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