Lawmakers want stricter background checks for teachers

From sex with students to guns on campus, more than a dozen teachers in the Charlotte area have faced serious trouble in the last few months.

From sex with students to guns on campus, a number of teachers in the Charlotte area have been arrested in recent months.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – From sex with students to guns on campus, more than a dozen teachers in the Charlotte area have faced serious trouble in the last few months.

NBC Charlotte did some digging and found North Carolina falls on the wrong side of the numbers when it comes to who’s allowed to teach your kids. The Tar Heel State is one of only 10 states in the country that don’t fingerprint teachers. But there’s a push to change that, because it’s easier to be a licensed as a teacher than it is to be a licensed manicurist in North Carolina.

Teachers facing legal trouble

It’s been a bit of a stretch, teacher after teacher, in the news for the wrong reasons.

At Sedgefield Middle School a teacher was caught with a gun on campus. In Gaston County, a special education teacher was charged with assaulting a disabled child. And at Merry Oaks Elementary in Charlotte, a substitute teacher was accused of sexually assaulting two students.

RELATED: Teacher accused of sex crimes taught at 8 schools

Parents were shocked to learn about the rash of charges against teachers, but even more by what came next.

“Would you be surprised to hear school districts are not required to do background checks before they hire a teacher?”

“Yes, I would be surprised,” said Carlissa Sanders, whose eyes went wide when NBC Charlotte asked that question. “It’s my children and I would want them to have the safest environment.”

Right now, North Carolina school districts must have a policy for vetting teachers, but the state does not require a background check. And most only do a simple database search — none of them check fingerprints like 40 other states do.

“That’s crazy,” said Lesa Breelove. “I never knew that. That’s not good.”

The attorney for the state school board agrees and is part of a group pushing legislators to change that. They want fingerprinting to be a requirement for teachers.

“It’s the most comprehensive of all the tools out there.”

Seven years ago, a task force first pushed for the fingerprinting but legislators didn’t want to spend money.

“Our students in North Carolina deserve to have a teacher that’s been vetted by their employer and their licensing entity,” said the attorney.

House Bill 117 is currently pending and would require running teachers’ fingerprints before licensing them in the Tar Heel State. Right now, even manicurists and architects in North Carolina undergo that kind of background check before getting a license, yet teachers don’t.

READ: House Bill 117

“I want to have certainty about those who we put a license in there to be in a classroom with students,”

“It makes me nervous for my kids and I would appreciate it if they cared about my kids the way I cared about my kids,” Sanders said.

And here’s something else: when it comes to substitute teachers, there are no required background checks. 

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