NORTHFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Parents have had it.
But the people who hired him and missed a record that should have kept him out of a school are facing the music.
And as CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, we now know the school district broke the law by not conducting a background check themselves – instead relying on third party vendors.
The law says, “To comply with state law, the school district needed to conduct the background check and should not have relied on the background check and/or assurances from the vendor.”
Parents who showed up Tuesday night wanted them to answer to that.
Parent after parent called on Sunset Ridge School District 29 to take responsibility for dropping the ball.
‘Somebody needs to take ownership in their failure,” said Michael Gallagher. “Changes need to be made from top to bottom, including at the board level.”
He said a successful background check would have prevented Garcia-Espinal and his felony record from walking through the doors. But it’s a check the district never did.
Instead, they relied on third-party vendors, who missed Garcia-Espinal’s history of identity theft, masturbating in women’s restrooms, and taking pictures of women in restrooms.
“Had they done those checks, we wouldn’t have had, presently known, 14 teachers suing for having their privacy violated and being a sex crime victim – and how many countless students,” Gallagher said.
State code says background check requirements apply to “all employees of persons or firms holding contracts with any school district.”
But District 29 said, “The law is not clear.”
Now they are working with the state to clarify and interpret the rule related to background checks right now, and to strengthen the language moving forward.
“They keep hiding behind the fact that they didn’t know,” Gallagher said.
Parents like Gallagher are looking for more.
“I feel that their statement that they’re going to do better is too little too late for the victims of these sex crimes,” he said. “All the counseling in the world isn’t going to make this pain go away.”
District 29 Supt. Edward J. Stange wrote that the district is “working with the State Board of Education on clarifying and strengthening language in Illinois School Code and their published templates for vendor contracts, regarding the obligation and process for completing criminal background checks on vendor staff working in public schools.”
CBS 2 is told the school board is also working on new safety procedures like criminal history searches for workers, vendors, and contractors. Meanwhile, the police investigation into Garcia-Espinal in Northfield remains active.