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Garza Letter Addresses Fairfax County Schools' Accidental Hiring of Convicted Felons

The superintendent's response to a Washington Post report that highlighted the illegal hiring of felons by the division.

Karen Garza, the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools issued a letter Tuesday about the school division's accidental hiring of several convicted felons. (Patch file.)
Karen Garza, the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools issued a letter Tuesday about the school division's accidental hiring of several convicted felons. (Patch file.)
Karen Garza, the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools issued a letter Tuesday about the school division's accidental hiring of several convicted felons. 

Garza's letter to parents was published Tuesday in the district's "myFCPS Family" e-newsletter, distributed to FCPS employees and parents of students enrolled in FCPS schools.  

Here is the letter as it appeared in the newsletter: 

"Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is committed to open communications with our employees, families, and community. For this reason, it is important to share information on a situation which came to light in the fall of 2012, and the steps we have taken to correct this situation.

It was brought to our attention in the fall of 2012 that an employee had a prior felony conviction and had been working for FCPS since 2006. Action was taken immediately to remedy the situation as state law prohibits school divisions from hiring any applicant who has been convicted of a felony. 

Next, FCPS moved quickly to undertake a comprehensive review of all hires between 1996 and 2009; nearly 19,000 employee files were carefully examined. In 2009, FCPS moved to an online application process, which automatically rejects any applicant who discloses he or she has a felony conviction. Prior to the online application process, a paper application process was used.

As a result of our review, six other employees emerged as having prior felony convictions. None of the seven employees were convicted of crimes against children. All of these employees were also hired before 2009. Human error played a part in these hirings and we deeply regret this mistake.

By the spring of 2013, all seven employees were removed from their positions. Four are on administrative leave pending resolution; three have left the school system. 

Normally, personnel matters are not for public discussion. However, this situation is becoming public after a lengthy legal and administrative process involving one of these employees, which is now in the Fairfax County Circuit Court. We are confident the court will affirm our recommendation to dismiss this employee.

Every FCPS employee undergoes a rigorous background check including fingerprinting for a police and FBI record check, and a check against a national child abuse registry. 

FCPS employees, families, and community can be assured that this situation will not occur again because of the rigorous online application process and strong vigilance.

If you have concerns or questions, contact fcpsinfo@fcps.edu."

Shirley Ginwright January 29, 2014 at 07:59 AM
Once an individual has completed their sentencing, probation and paid whatever restitution is required, they should be allowed to move forward with their lives. While the employees have rehabilitated themselves, they are now placed in a situation where they can no longer support themselves or their family. Until changed, which it should be, the Superintendent is doing what she has to do. I think ex-felons should be able to work in the school system. We should look at their crime. Look at the number of individuals who have been charged with the possession or use or marijuana (small amounts), but now carry a drug charge. We can't use a one shoe fit all mentality. Ex-felons need jobs and this is another instance where those, who are trying to get their lives together are blocked. It isn't something that will be fixed immediately, but I think the policy needs to be relooked.

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