Thieving teachers, assault convictions: Some with rap sheets slipping through the system
There are teachers, fortunately a minority, who are active in the profession despite having a criminal record — which they are not disclosing.
This is despite a policy since 2019 that all new teachers registering with the SA Council of Educators (Sace) must obtain and submit police clearance certificates.
Schools are also legally required to do background checks on prospective educators and any other prospective employees including sports coaches, administrators and grounds staff, to ensure they are not listed on the National Register of Sexual Offenders and the National Child Protection Register. As a result of these requirements the number of educators undergoing criminal checks has grown by 254% since 2019.
But even though these checks are in place, the TPN Credit Bureau said its data reveals 3.6% of teachers have a criminal record and more than two-thirds of those don’t declare they have had a previous conviction.
“It is a point of concern that around 26% of those with a conviction have more than one conviction,” says the bureau.
The top five criminal conviction types are theft (26.3%), traffic offences (20.29%), assault (15.13%), fraud (4.61%) and drug trafficking (3.95%). Convictions related to abuse and crimes of a sexual nature make up 2.63% of convictions.
More than 40% of those who were found guilty were between the ages of 18 and 25, while 38% were between the ages of 26 and 40.
Part of the reason educators with criminal records are slipping through the cracks is that educators employed before the new policy being introduced in 2019 were not required to submit police clearance certificates, said TNP.
It advised schools, crèches, aftercare facilities and institutions caring for mentally vulnerable individuals to conduct regular criminal checks, even on long-standing employees.
“Schools should ideally be conducting biometric checks every alternate year on each staff member. Fee-paying schools need to factor the costs of these checks into their annual budgets but the government assumes the cost of conducting the checks at schools which are not fee paying.”
The bureau also cautioned that “school principals who don’t conduct checks and employ staff with a criminal record can themselves be held criminally and civilly liable for failing in their duty of care to children or vulnerable people”.
If a staff criminal check uncovers a conviction of a sexual nature against a minor or a vulnerable individual, they will need to be dismissed with immediate effect, said the bureau. Should an educator be convicted of another crime, this should be referenced against Sace’s list of convictions which would prevent an educator registration.
Disciplinary action may also follow, depending on the nature of the conviction, on a school’s policies and the employee agreement signed by the staff member.
Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.