Albuquerque Public Schools has nearly 2,300 employees who have not been subject to a background check, an internal audit found. The employees are those who had been at the school district since 1999. The office of the Attorney General sent a letter to the district with recommendations on how to improve the process. Background checks in Albuquerque schools have become a more high profile issue following a scandal that found a high-ranking Albuquerque Public Schools executive resign just before NM Political Report broke news that he was facing trial in Colorado on multiple charges of sexual assault of a child. The former Deputy Superintendent of APS, Jason Martinez, was also facing domestic abuse charges and eventually was arrested in Colorado for breaking probation.
State Auditor Tim Keller is warning school districts of the possible consequences of not conducting background checks or following state-mandated licensure rules for school personnel. In a risk advisory issued to school districts Tuesday, Keller’s office writes that the “most obvious” consequence is “the potential danger to students and fellow school personnel.”
The risk advisory also warns that without proper licensing, the risk of embezzlement or misuse of public funds is increased and that a lack of qualifications can lead to incompetence. Not following the rules could also open up the district to litigation for negligent hiring or supervision. The advisory follows scandals throughout the state involving licensing for those working in schools. Perhaps the most shocking was in Albuquerque Public Schools, where a deputy superintendent facing a trial for sexual assault of a child was hired without a background check or even applying for a license to work at a school district.
As Albuquerque Public Schools remains in the thick of scandal, Gov. Susana Martinez is ordering a review of background check policies in all New Mexico school districts. Susana Martinez announced Tuesday that the state Public Safety Department and Public Education Department will conduct a “thorough compliance review” to make sure each district is performing “timely” background checks of its employees. The order follows New Mexico Political Report’s revelation last week that now former APS Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez was arrested in 2013 in Denver on charges of sexual assault of a child. Jason Martinez, who was also arrested earlier this year on two violent assault charges, is facing trial in Denver this October. A warrant is currently out for Jason Martinez’ arrest for breaking pretrial conditions that bar him from leaving Colorado without court approval.