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Private background checks on teachers are a paranoid parent’s dream

It’s hard to trust someone else with your kid. From the time we have them to the time we get them settled into their dorm, it never gets easier to hand the most precious person in your life into the care of another person. That feeling is probably fresh for a lot of parents with kids going off to school right now. It feels like you just got used to the last teacher, so who’s this new person? What do they want? Are they a secret Buffalo Bill type? Is your kid going to be safe?

Add that to the way the media just loves a nasty story about a nasty teacher, and you’ve got the perfect paranoid brew. It’s no wonder that parents are seeing ads that implore them to do deep background searches of the people their kids will be hanging out with all year. But listen, everyone: Don’t let yourself go down this rabbit hole.

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Parental paranoia is a seriously lucrative business. When you can sell parents on everything from smart onesies to poop apps, why not convince them to shell out a hundred bucks or more on a background check that can unearth dirt on a teacher? Well, for a few reasons.

First of all, it’s already been done and then some. Currently every single state requires its public school teachers to complete a background check, and most require them to do it again if they need to renew their credentials. So there’s a huge chance you won’t even find anything that your school’s administration didn’t already find. Seriously. Go try to even volunteer at your kid’s school and get ready to surrender your fingerprints.

Sometimes, teachers do fall through the cracks, although that scenario is extremely rare. Still, you feel that little “what if” niggling at your confidence. That’s what scammy background check operations are pretty much counting on. Any company that promises instant or cheap results is probably a huge scam. There are ways to try and ensure you don’t get played, but good luck finding a legit place to do your snooping. Add that to what an imperfect process background checks can be, and you’re liable to wreck someone’s career by accident if you aren’t careful.

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But beyond all of that, let’s talk about the fact that a lot of these places aren’t just trying to sell you the goods on criminal records, but on everything from college-era misdemeanors to social media slip-ups. If you sift through someone’s past thoroughly enough, you absolutely will find something you dislike. Maybe they aren’t the same religion as you, or have had the audacity to put on swimwear when they head to the beach. What would you do if one of these places unearthed a decade-old tweet about “getting sooooo drunk” or a picture of kindly Mrs. Smith in a skimpy two-piece? Worse, what if you get a dossier containing Mr. Johnson’s johnson intended for his girlfriend?

What’s the end game? What’s the plan there? Are you going to march into the principal’s office and demand a teacher’s resignation because of the stuff they do outside of school, whether or not it’s even criminal, and the tastefulness of which is entirely subjective?

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This kind of stuff leaves the door wide open for wholesale moral panic and even discrimination. Maybe you’ll learn that your kid’s teacher is active on Grindr or really into the brony scene. Maybe you’ll find that they were a nude model for their college’s art department.

So the hell what?

Teachers are people. And while criminality is one thing, personality is a whole other. If you’re seriously concerned that your teacher might be able to hide everything from their sex life to their religious affiliation from you, you may be seriously overthinking this. Be glad if your teacher can hide their bikini’d past and sexts from you so well that you need a third party to dig them up.That means they are really excellent at keeping that part of their lives separate, and it clearly has no bearing on how they teach.

You know, the thing you should be concerned about?

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