CMS parents questions district hiring practices

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Mint Hill Police Department is concerned about how a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (CMS) substitute teacher with a criminal past was hired. The department is now investigating CMS' hiring practices.

Former substitute teacher Lamont Barrett was hired in March, 2017. A search shows Barrett was arrested in the past for drugs, driving under suspension, and possession of drugs to distribute and sell near a school.

Records show that the latter charge was dismissed, but parents still wonder how a person with a criminal past could be allowed in the classrooms with students.

"I am not sure if they really checked," parent Telesya Chapman said. "Because they probably need teachers so bad, that they probably didn't check extensively."

Barrett was arrested in September and charged with taking indecent liberties against a student at Rocky River High School.

"As parents, you expect your child to be in an environment with a teacher that is there to teach them to model good behavior." parent Brian Smith said.

Judy Kidd, president of the local Classroom Teachers Association, says she is surprised with CMS' standard, and that Barrett was hired.

"It's another indictment of the gaping hole in CMS that is the lacking of a competent Human Resources administrator," Kidd said.

Barrett was fired in September, but Kidd is concerned and wonders how many other CMS employees are still working in the classrooms with a criminal past.

"Has CMS gotten to the point where they have run so many people away from the school district that they are having to hire people that otherwise would not have been hired?" Kidd asked.

CMS sent this statement in reference to background checks:

In accordance with NC Public School Law, every applicant submits to a background check as part of the pre-employment screening process. CMS conducts a two part background check that involves a third party vendor and the State Bureau of Investigations. If an applicant's background check reveals questionable information, the nature of the discrepancy, the time lapse between the charge/conviction and date of application, whether the discrepancy presents a safety risk to students and/or other employees, are taken into consideration before making an employment decision.  All employment decision; specifically, as it relates to criminal background checks are made in accordance with NC Public School Law.

Parents want CMS to do a better job investigating teachers, especially the ones with questionable backgrounds.

"If we don't do that," Smith said. "I think we can have even worse situations."

The North Carolina Department of Instruction says when it comes to hiring practices, that is left up to individual school districts.

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