Students' criminal histories are not being shared openly enough by school officials in Washington state, according to the auditor's office.
Few principals interviewed in a study routinely shared criminal history information of students as extensively as they should be as required by state law. Primarily because most didn't understand their legal obligations, according an auditor's report.
'Without a clear understanding of requirements, principals used their judgment to decide what to share and with whom, frequently focusing on situations involving serious crimes," the auditor's report states. "Further, few school districts had clear and complete policies to guide principals, in part because the state's model policies were unclear and incomplete."
There are "several high-profile" incidents that demonstrate how improper notifications of criminal histories can lead to future harm. The auditor's office uses a case against the Bethel School District in which a principal failed to notify teachers that a student was a Level 1 sex offender. The student was allowed to serve in a coaching role for a middle school track team, which eventually led to the rape of a student. The result was more than three years of litigation.
Additionally, 29 out of 34 principals interviewed said they did not routinely share the criminal history of students with subsequent schools. Several said they thought that was the job of a student's probation office.
Principals also voiced confusion over whether it was their responsibility to share criminal offenses if they didn't occur on campus.
The report is the second this year. In May, the auditor's office examined whether state agencies, courts, and law enforcement notified school and district officials of crimes committed by students. That audit found gaps and breakdowns in those processes.
A work group has since been formed and is tasked with finding solutions to the aforementioned issues.