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FOX 13 Investigates: Dozens of educators accidentally hired without full background check

Posted at 5:54 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 22:20:20-04


UPDATE (April 7, 2021): Some of the information contained within this article is now outdated. Since the publication of this story, FOX 13 Investigates has learned 326 educators across Utah were hired without background checks. Click here for the update.


The FOX 13 Investigates team has learned dozens of educators across the state have accidentally been hired without a full background check before starting their jobs on campus.

Utah law requires educators who have access to students to have a background check for the sake of child safety.

Two months ago, the Utah State Board of Education learned of a series of data entry mistakes made by the same employee.

USBE notified the educators and school districts to let them know of the issue, but did not notify students, parents, or the public until FOX 13 learned of the issue on Thursday.

Throndsen said it was up to local schools and districts to decide whether to notify parents.

According to a report compiled by USBE, there were 377 "anomalies" or concerns with the data.

Of those 377 anomalies, only 92 were found to be active educators in the state.

Of the 92 educators, 64 cases turned out to be a "false alarm" because there were in fact background checks performed. USBE attributed this to a tracking error.

However, 28 educators either had an incomplete background check, or in six of those cases, no background check at all.

"It's completely the Utah State Board of Education's responsibility, and our fault, in terms of data entry," said Jennifer Throndsen, director of teaching and learning. "There’s no reasonable error that is acceptable in this space... Even having one teacher (unchecked) is not reasonable in my mind, just the risk that it puts on the students."

The employee who made the data entry mistake has been "removed" from that responsibility.

Two employees have now taken on the job and will review each other's work to ensure the mistakes do not happen again.

Throndsen said it is not the educator's fault for having not received a background check.

As such, none of the 28 educators have been placed on administrative leave.

"None of these educators have been reported in any way," Throndsen said. "It is highly unlikely that there is any educator in this 28 that I’d be overly concerned about, but there is a risk, and that is what we want to close up as quickly as possible."

Results of new background checks for the 28 educators are expected to return next week, which will indicate whether someone with a criminal record slipped through the cracks.

It's unclear how long each of the educators had been working at Utah schools without background checks, but Throndsen said it could have potentially been up to five years.