Two months after a camera was found hidden in a bathroom at Sunset Ridge School in Northfield, officials warned an employee responsible for background checks that he should have done more.
The move comes after a camera was found in a staff bathroom inside Sunset Ridge School, which covers grades 4-8. Days later, an arrest warrant was issued for David Garcia-Espinal, who had worked worked as a janitor and in the school’s cafeteria. Garcia is still on the run from police and has not been arrested.
CBS 2 later learned Garcia had actually placed cameras inside two bathrooms in the school: one in a staff bathroom and another in a girls’ bathroom.
These weren’t isolated incidents for Garcia-Espinal. CBS 2 later uncovered records indicating he had contact with police on at least two occasions after being found allegedly recording women inside a Glenview movie theater. In one incident, he admitted to masturbating in the bathroom.
Garcia was only arrested in one incident. In the other, he fled before police arrived, documents showed. He was never charged in either incident; in the one incident in which he was arrested, police closed the case without making an arrest, records showed.
CBS 2 also obtained records showing Garcia-Espianal had been convicted of possessing fraudulent identification in 2012, and had previously used at least three aliases: David Garcia, David Garcia-Espinal and Jesus A. Arcos. It’s still unclear which of those names, if any, is his real one.
Garcia was employed at the school by two third-party vendors: OrganicLife, who hired him as a food service employee in 2014, and Smith Maintenance, who employed him as a night custodian. Both companies conducted background checks on him, both of which “came back negative,” records showed.
But neither vendor nor the district conducted a more thorough “fingerprint-based criminal history background check,” which pulls data from the State Police and FBI in addition to court records, according to the results of an investigation done on behalf of the district obtained by CBS 2.
That report said “It is not known with certainty what information Mr. Garcia’s fingerprint-based criminal history background check would have included,” although it goes on to admit “it is more likely than not” that at least one of his previous arrests would have surfaced.
In a letter to Tom Beerheide, who oversees business operations at the district, superintendent Edward J. Stange said Beerheide “fell short,” and that he didn’t fully understand state law regarding employee background checks.
“Specifically, you thought it was the vendors’ responsibility, not the School District’s, and were unfamiliar with the particulars of the human resource function related to initiating and reviewing background checks and the significance of a fingerprint-based criminal history background check,” Stange said in the letter. “I do not believe that this misunderstanding was intentional, willful, negligent or due to disorganization in the business office.”
The letter argues state law is unclear on the issue of which third-party vendor employees require fingerprint-based background checks, although the investigation noted “[state law] can be read to require the School District to initiate the same process for vendor employees who have ‘direct, daily contact’ with students.”
The letter went on to direct Beerheide to require all vendor employees “that have a consistent presence at the District’s schools” to immediately conduct fingerprint-based background checks and review background checks on existing employees.