The ease with which an accused sex offender allegedly hopped from one New York district to another has raised questions about the way teachers are hired in the state, the New York Times reported Jan. 31.
Some officials say there is a lack of consistency in how various districts–many facing teacher shortages–check candidates’ backgrounds before they are hired.
When confronted in 1999 with charges that he had made inappropriate sexual comments to two of his students at a New York City high school, Anthony Correnti resigned on the spot and sought work in a Long Island school district.
But officials of that district, in Seaford, never called the city’s board of education or the state education department before they hired Correnti soon after, the Times reported. If they’d called the board of education, they would have learned that Correnti was on a list of teachers never to be hired again. If they had called the education department, they would have learned that the state had opened an investigation into his moral character.
On Jan. 29, Correnti was indicted on 52 counts of sexual abuse, rape, and sodomy after the police said they found videotapes of him having sex with two 14-year-old students in his Manhattan classroom. He was charged with abusing five girls, ages 13 to 16, in Suffolk County since 1997.
“I think it would be fair to ask the state education department how prevalent, in the 700 school districts in New York state, is it where no adequate background checks are done,” Stanley S. Litow, a former deputy chancellor of the New York City schools, told the Times. Litow said providing state guidelines would be a good idea.
Gov. George Pataki and others cite a practice in many districts that allows employees accused of child abuse to resign before district officials can file complaints with the education department or local law enforcement.
Correnti reportedly resigned at least once in this way, known as “silent resignation.” A law signed last year by Pataki, which forbids the practice and requires fingerprinting for all prospective school employees, takes effect in July.