Schools beef up hiring protocol - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Schools beef up hiring protocol

Accused Cd'A teacher was working under conditional certificate

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Posted: Friday, December 20, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 8:32 am, Fri Dec 20, 2013.

COEUR d'ALENE - School officials in Coeur d'Alene are taking a hard look at teacher hiring practices, and putting some new screening steps in place, following this week's arrest of a district high school teacher accused of rape and other felony sex crimes involving a child.

Daniel Taylor, 32, a science teacher at Venture High School, was arrested Monday and remained Thursday in Kootenai County jail where he is being held on a $50,000 bond.

Although the alleged child victim in the case is not a student, the matter raises questions about teacher hiring practices in Coeur d'Alene and the state of Idaho. Taylor was hired by the school district and licensed to teach by the Idaho State Department of Education in September 2011, less than a year after Taylor pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and child abuse in a domestic violence case in Colorado.

Catherine Olguin, spokeswoman for the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, said Taylor's sentence of 15 days in jail and two years of probation with domestic abuse and alcohol evaluation and treatment were deferred. Colorado court records show that the case was dismissed upon Taylor's successful completion of state-issued rehabilitation programs. By following the terms and conditions of the assault and child abuse case, he was also able to avoid a year of probation for six counts of violating a protection order.

"Though the school district cannot comment on the specific details of Daniel Taylor's hire because Mr. Taylor is on administrative leave pending the outcome of a law enforcement investigation and legal proceedings, we can confirm that we followed the steps through the State Department of Education regarding his criminal history check and fingerprint process," said school district spokeswoman Laura Rumpler.

She described the hiring screening process as "multi-layered," including interviews and reference checks, in addition to the criminal background investigations.

School districts work with the Idaho State Department of Education for teacher certification and background investigation checks.

Rumpler said the state receives the results of all criminal history and fingerprint checks of prospective teachers, and shares the results of those reports with districts by issuing or not issuing teaching certificates.

Idaho education law calls for fingerprints to be matched, at a minimum, against the statewide criminal database, the FBI's database and the statewide sex offender register.

Taylor previously worked as a teacher in Coeur d'Alene, from 2005 through 2008, before moving to Colorado for several years. Before being re-hired by the school district in September 2011, Taylor had to apply for a new Idaho teaching certificate and his criminal history and fingerprints were scrutinized again.

Taylor's 2011 teaching certificate was issued with conditions placed on it by the state education department's Professional Standards Commission. Those conditions included completion of an ethics course and completion of a new fingerprint check between May 1, 2012 and Sept. 1, 2012.

Melissa McGrath, spokesperson for the state education department, confirmed that Taylor does not have a 2012 fingerprint check on record. The only fingerprint record the state has for Taylor is from July 2011.

"In general, if an individual does not meet conditions set on his or her license, the Professional Standards Commission could initiate a case to compel compliance," McGrath wrote in a message to The Press. "Per Idaho Public Records law, I cannot comment on the status of individual cases before the Professional Standards Commission."

The commission has the legal authority to revoke, suspend, deny, or place "reasonable conditions" on teaching certificates upon certain grounds. The list of grounds includes felony child abuse offenses, but does not specifically mention misdemeanors such as the crimes Taylor pleaded guilty to in Colorado.

At the time of Taylor's arrest, there were two teachers in Coeur d'Alene working under conditional teaching certificates. Taylor was one of them.

Matt Handelman, superintendent of Coeur d'Alene public schools, is spearheading the review of the district's hiring practices, Rumpler said.

The district "has begun implementing additional measures to strengthen its hiring practices beyond state requirements," Rumpler told The Press.

The following procedural changes are effective immediately in Coeur d'Alene schools:

* For all teaching candidates with certificates that include Professional Standards Commission conditions, the school district will require a separate background check that will give the district access to background information now unavailable to the local district.

* Prior to the expiration of any conditions placed on teaching certificates, the school district will work with the state education department to ensure the conditions have been complied with. If a certificate candidate fails to meet the conditions, the district will re-evaluate the teacher's employment status.

* The district intends to strengthen the detail of the questions it may legally ask on its employment application, asking candidates about prior misdemeanors or other background information that will help the district enhance its assessment of candidates during the hiring process.

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  • thedude posted at 3:12 pm on Mon, Dec 23, 2013.

    thedude Posts: 10

    Curious, are you insinuating that homeschool kids are not as well educated as public school kids. If so do you have statistical proof of this?

  • justgottosay posted at 7:24 pm on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    justgottosay Posts: 2

    "Individuals like him are experts at gaining trust, respect, and friendship..."

    I’m no expert on the characteristics of a person with a psycho-narcissistic personality disorder, but if these charges do pan out, “Dan the man” (as some of his students referred to him as) would seem to fit the bill. Kind of scary when you see all the "kid opportunity" he had--teaching, Idaho Drug Free Youth, and a summer camp counselor at Lutherhaven.

  • theygotsnowed posted at 5:48 pm on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    theygotsnowed Posts: 1

    Justgottosay... you're right on the money! If my memory serves me correctly his file contains a write up (or two!) and I think the answer to your question regarding how he was hired back is pretty clear. Have you read the many comments by students, friends, co-workers and his family stating he would never do anything wrong? Individuals like him are experts at gaining trust, respect, and friendship then when something goes haywire they cover their tracks by projecting the blame on someone else.

  • justgottosay posted at 11:51 am on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    justgottosay Posts: 2

    The union has nothing to do with hiring a teacher or certifying who qualifies. They do ensure that due process rights that are interpreted in the 5th and 14th Amendments are applied to the workplace. (Perhaps that is you beef). I think a question that needs to be answered is the circumstances under which Mr. Taylor left CHS in 2008? My understanding (hearsay) is he received poor reviews/disciplined and encouraged/forced to leave. I heard from my kid's friends who had him back then that his class was chaotic and a joke; kids did what they wanted. One said he had actually fallen asleep. If so, why would they hire him back in 2011?

  • Randy_Myers posted at 8:29 am on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    Randy_Myers Posts: 130

    This isn't a case of needing "beefing up." Simply looking at the state department records should have sent up huge red flags. Next, the district failed to check to see if he had followed through on the MANDATORY fingerprint check. He had not and it slid on by. After the fact looking at screening is no replacement for following already existent procedures. Poor job of looking at this hire.

  • Intrepid posted at 8:08 am on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    Intrepid Posts: 954

    If the state crosschecked IP addresses against activities on various lurid websites and organizations I strongly suspect that faculty at all levels would be evacuating careers like rats from a burning ship. These are people whose careers places them in a setting of abundant exposure to our youth. They are entrusted to teach, but have access to abuse that trust as they alone decide.

    Imagine a university professor using that role to nurture their own social life. Yes, the students are all adults - but their grades and their futures depend upon keeping the teacher happy. The potential for sexual abuse under color of authority is enormous. And nobody is watching the ship - whatsoever.

  • ancientemplar posted at 7:47 am on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1118

    If you really want to go forward with this I imagine you'll have to kiss the ring of the Grand BoohPa of the Teachers Union.

  • today posted at 7:46 am on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    today Posts: 43

    If you're going to throw stones at very least have an adult proof-read your uneducated and ill-informed diatribe. My guess is that you were home schooled - yes?

  • oscar posted at 7:27 am on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    oscar Posts: 961

    Who would have ever thought that the Idaho Dept of Education would have anything but a top notch organization. Maybe if education was valued by legislators things would get done.

  • SamuelStanding posted at 7:24 am on Fri, Dec 20, 2013.

    SamuelStanding Posts: 457

    While I applaud Matt Handleman and this district to want stronger highering criteria...I cannot help but wonder about the existing teachers. Sure, if there is not cause you cannot bark up that tree. If one looks at the role these teachers are taking more and more, it is not a MENTOR role they seek, instead a FRIEND a BUDDY and you see this with parenting. No one wants to have to be the leader. How much opposition will you meet with the teachers union, because you know, there will be opposition from this group.

    We pick up the paper each day and see more and more of the personnel in school districts getting too CLOSE to the students. Their role is defined and should be clear, so how do employers working with children protect against the "wolf in sheeps clothing"?

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