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Stringent background checks in schools

The Chairman of Bangalore’s Vibgyor International School was arrested in 2014 for allegedly raping a 6-year-old girl. A skating instructor too was a prime suspect as the police had found child pornography videos in his laptop. The accused individual was sacked at a school earlier for gross misconduct with girls and the School was criticized for not conducting a thorough reference check or background check on him.

Former Beijing teacher Neil Robinson was jailed for 12 years of sex offences and possession of child pornography. He eluded capture for more than a decade until an adverse media check exposed him as a fugitive.

According to Children’s Charity Plan International UK, 1,955 sex crimes including rape, sexual grooming and child prostitution were recorded in UK schools by police in 2014-15 as compared to 719 in 2011-12. 15% were committed by school staff including teachers.

These are just a small handful of such disturbing cases in the education industry. As a father of an 8-year-old and a 14-year-old, I’m deeply concerned and so are other parents or guardians — with their loved ones in the hands of individuals not thoroughly screened by schools.

In the same token, there are cases of unqualified educators like Anoop Shankar of National University of Singapore who later moved to a prestigious US based West Virginia University which found out Anoop did not hold the claimed Doctorate degree and never graduated from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Anoop then made his way into Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond as an Associate Professor where he even published papers. A detailed education and employment check should have been done.

It’s imperative that the following categories of people are background checked to mitigate any form of risks

  • Management Staff
  • Academic Staff
  • Non-Academic Staff including Administration personnel
  • Parent volunteers
  • External contractors which should include enrichment solution providers, bus drivers, security personnel, food caterers and so on.

What kind of checks should be carried out? At the very minimum, the following should be undertaken:

  • Criminal check in countries where they are residing and have resided and worked over the last 10 years at least.
  • Civil Litigation
  • Global Sanction and Watchlist to check if there are any cases of terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking and political exposure. 
  • Adverse media check
  • Social Media checks to vet for Radicalism, Sexually explicit content, Potentially unlawful activities including theft and fraud, Potentially violent behaviours, Racism and/or Demonstrations of intolerance and Unprofessional comments (vulgarity)
  • US Sex Offenders Registry and DBS checks in UK
  • Past employment history
  • Educational qualifications and/or Professional Qualification

(NB: Please click on for more details on these Checks)

Whichever reputable background screening partner, educational institutions use, it’s critical that the checks are thoroughly executed with the sources directly. Given the international background of several staff in the education industry, it’s a complex process best left to the professional companies.

It’s not at all sufficient just to conduct the check at the point the subject starts working with the institution as there’s no guarantee that whilst in employment or contract, the subject stays risk-free. Hence, continuous monitoring tools offered by background screening partners like Avvanz should be utilized to curtail risks to the minimum as child safety or education cannot be compromised at any cost.


This article is written by Kannan Chettiar, Managing Director of Avvanz. Avvanz is 1-Point-Talent-Hub which has 3 business pillars – Avvanz Hire (Recruitment Process Outsourcing and Comprehensive New Employee On-boarding), Avvanz Screen (Predictive Assessment and Background Screening) and Avvanz Develop (Blended Training including gamification and Coaching/Mentoring).

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