LAPS says it conducts proper background checks

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By The Staff

Los Alamos Public School Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus issued a statement about the background checks for the district’s employees just hours after the state ordered an immediate check for districts’ compliance to state standards.
In the statement released Wednesday, Steinhaus let the community know LAPS conducts background searches on each of its new applicants and makes those wishing to work for the district sign a statement authorizing such a check.
“When a person is hired by LAPS, the standard intake process includes submitting fingerprints through the criminal background check system called 3M Cogent,” Steinhaus said in the release.
Tuesday, Gov. Susana Martinez ordered compliance investigators with the state’s Public Education Department to conduct immediate reviews of background check policies for each of the state’s 89 public school districts.
Martinez’s order came on the heels of the discovery that Albuquerque Public Schools’ instruction and technology supervisor, Jason Martinez, had been brought up on child sex abuse and domestic violence charges in the state of Colorado, according to the Associated Press.
The governor and the accused APS official are not related.
“Jason Martinez should have never been hired at Albuquerque Public Schools,” Gov. Martinez said in a statement announcing the order to check compliance. “He has no business being around children. APS dropped the ball, and it’s completely unacceptable.”
Martinez said she was ordering the review because “parents need to know that our districts are following the law, are conducting background checks, and providing a safe environment at all times for our children. This review should help districts craft stronger policies and immediately identify any lapses or gaps in background check compliance by school districts throughout the state.”
The state said it would provide a report and analysis once reviews were completed.
Ahead of a state review, LAPS did its own review of its hiring practices, as well as its safety procedures concerning visitors and volunteers.
There had been some confusion about what visitors had to do to conform for the schools’ standard procedures, and even who might be considered a visitor.
The issue came up particularly for Los Alamos County employees, such as Public Utilities meter readers. For a story published July 4 in the Los Alamos Monitor, the school district said it was working with the county to ease the confusion.
In Steinhaus’ statement, the school said anyone wishing to visit a LAPS campus is required to check into the school’s office and present a driver’s license, which is then run through the Raptor system, which checks the identification against the Raptor company’s database of registered sex offenders.
"The purpose is to keep our children safe and to know who's coming into our buildings,” Steinhaus said adding that the system has elicited "a lot of positive feedback" from staff and parents.
For more information about these systems, contact Pamela Miller, the schools’ human resources director, at 663-2229 or p.miller@laschools.net.