A New York school district’s hiring practices have been called into question after it employed a special education teacher who was convicted of misdemeanor battery for abusing elementary school students at a previous teaching job in Nevada.
The Rochester City School District (RCSD) hired James Doran in September 2018 as a special education teacher at Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School 19. Doran resigned from RCSD after news of his conviction became public.
However, a school district spokesman said the resignation’s timing was coincidental as it was related to another matter rather than the teacher’s past misconduct. He added that there was no indication that Doran had engaged in any wrongdoing during his employment at School 19.
Doran was accused of physically assaulting three special needs children at a Las Vegas school. He was charged with three counts of battery but convicted on a single charge in 2016. Court records indicated he received a suspended six-month jail sentence. The teacher was also ordered to perform community service and undergo counseling. The school district paid a $1.2 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by parents in federal court.
Rochester school officials claimed they had performed all the necessary checks when Doran applied for a position at the school last June. They said his application acknowledged the issues at his previous job. The New York State Education Department had sent RCSD a notice announcing that Doran was “cleared for employment” after filing his fingerprints. However, the department has stated that fingerprint clearance does not automatically signal a clean criminal record.
RCSD Chief of Human Resources Harry Kennedy pointed out that most New York school districts used the same system of background checks. He also acknowledged the need to consider improvements in the character verification process of potential school employees in the future.