Legislator proposes law requiring background checks for all school employees

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – One New Mexico lawmaker said you shouldn’t have to wonder about the people your kids interact with at school. He’s pushing for stricter laws on background checks for school employees. It come after an accused child molester made it into a high-ranking position in the state’s largest school district.

Republican Representative David Adkins said Albuquerque Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez brought the background check problem to light. Martinez spent several months with the district before bowing out when child molestation charges out of Denver were uncovered.

“I think parents at school districts across New Mexico would appreciate us getting this done knowing that their kids have people around them that have had this done and that are cleared to work with children,” said Adkins.

Yet, while Representative Adkins says the Martinez case raised the issue, it was the New Mexico Attorney General’s report that spurred Adkins to craft this piece of legislation. The audit revealed four more APS employees, in addition to Martinez, didn’t undergo required background checks. What’s more, the office found more than two thousand employees without background checks on file.

Adkins says his proposal would require all district employees to pass background checks. That includes employees, like cooks and custodians, who have direct contact with students, as well as employees who don’t.

What’s more, both current school employees and new hires would have to pass background checks. That’s because the new bill closes a loophole that allows employees who have worked in the same district since or before 1998 to work without a check.

“The nice thing about these background checks is that it’ll be reported to the school district even if something happens later on down the road, so it really does keep our children safe,” Adkins explained.

Current school employees who haven’t passed a background check would be required to do so by July 2017, if this bill became law. A retrial is set to begin March 1st in the Denver molestation case against Jason Martinez. A judge declared a mistrial the first time Martinez was tried after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

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