Iowa School District Changes Hiring Policy To Consider Applicants With Criminal History: Report
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The largest public school district in Iowa changed its employment practices to consider hiring people with criminal records after years of potential workers failing background checks due to past misdemeanor or felony convictions.

Superintendent Ian Roberts of the Des Moines Public School District, which serves approximately 30,000 students at more than 60 different schools, announced the change during a public forum on Sunday, according to local media.

“I believe that people are so much better than the worst thing they’ve ever done,” Roberts said, according to the Des Moines Register. “I have overturned at least … five or six decisions around not hiring individuals based on something in their background because they have an opportunity not only for them to be redeemed, but for them to add value to the students that we are serving.”

Roberts said the school board granted him the “green light to make the right decisions” but contended that the district would decline to hire an individual who could endanger students, staff, or educators.

Top administrators said the shift comes amid the school district’s attempt to diversify its teachers and staff of nearly 5,000. The outlet cited Iowa Department of Education statistics, which reports about 80% of the staff members are white, while two-thirds of the district’s students are Hispanic and black.


Phil Roeder, a spokesperson for the district, told the outlet that state law requires background checks for employees every five years.

Susan Tallman, the district’s talent and personnel director, told the outlet that having a criminal offense on a background check does not automatically disqualify an applicant.

The district’s change in hiring practices comes after officials reportedly ended its contract with school resource officers from the Des Moines Police Department more than two years ago, citing concerns over law enforcement disproportionality overusing authority towards students of color.

Instead, district officials used other methods to keep campuses safe with coordinators, monitors, and facilitators.

However, after the first year of the new system, parents and police told Axios that student behavioral problems reached a “fever pitch,” as the outlet reports.

Parents raised concerns about a rise in violence and bullying at some schools in the district, while police reports show a range of weapons, from guns to bricks, have been identified in school fights. Other records reported by the outlet showed students assaulting teachers and staff.

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