4 Reasons Why Background Checks Get More Credit Than They Deserve

If I had a nickel for every time I was told, very proudly and boldy, “We do background checks” when I signed up my kids for a sports team, summer camp or afterschool program…

Well, I’d have a whole lot of nickels.

You see, background checks get a lot more credit than they deserve.

Why, you ask? I have 4 good answers, but the most important one is: 

A background check reveals only when a person has been convicted of a crime. Not arrested for a crime and not when there is a plea bargain. (BTW, plea bargains happen quite a lot in child sexual abuse cases to prevent the child from having to testify in front of their abuser.)

Think for just a minute how many child predators actually get caught. Then think about how often there is enough evidence to arrest a person; and charge them; and then convict them.

Additionally, an individual could be arrested multiple times, but if they are never convicted, their background check comes back squeaky clean.

Reasons #2, #3, and #4 that background checks are too heavily relied upon: Background checks are not created equally. For example, does the background check…

flag felonies and misdemeanors? Or just felonies?

search a national data base? Or just state or county records?

flag convictions other than crimes against children? Domestic violence? Indecent exposure?

So, do I think background checks are useless?  Absolutely not. They are a very important part of the hiring process. They just shouldn’t be the entire hiring process. 

Youth serving organizations need to research and be very intentional about what level of background check they are using with their candidates, and parents need to be informed what exactly is searched and what is not.

Background checks are a very important data point, but they are most effective as one data point in a comprehensive hiring process.

Next time you sign up your child for an activity, be sure to ask about their child protection policies and when they proudly and boldly answer, “We do background checks!” you can now ask them what kind.

 And your child will be safer for it.

Did he do it or not?

Editor’s note: I am not an attorney, nor have I ever played one on TV. This blog post is not a commentary or evaluation of the United States legal system, only on Mr. Bill Cosby.

I won’t bury the lead.  Yes…he did it.  

How do I know? Well…he told us that he did it.

Bill Cosby walked out of a Pennsylvania state prison a free man yesterday, after Pennsylvania’s highest court “overturned” his sexual assault conviction.  In 2018, he was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman named Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia estate. And, during Cosby’s trial, 60 additional women came forward to say Cosby also sexually assaulted them the exact same way.

At his sentencing, the trial judge declared him “a sexually violent predator who could not be safely allowed out in public and needed to report to authorities for the rest of his life.” Yikes.

I wondered…with what flimsy evidence did the prosecutor charge Cosby with this crime, followed by a judge’s conviction and sentencing? The evidence was Cosby’s own confession from a deposition done during Constand’s civil trial against Cosby. Cosby admitted to giving his sexual partners quaaludes, but insisted the sex was consensual.  But Bill, was it?  Was it really consensual? Because we have 60 women who said that it wasn’t and described the same pattern of assault.

What in the world happened here? What would move a court to overturn this conviction? Due process happened here. The first prosecutor on Cosby’s case promised not to file criminal charges against the comedian if Cosby would testify in Constand’s civil lawsuit that was filed in 2005. Turns out, Pennsylvania’s highest court believes the subsequent prosecutor was bound to the promise made by his predecessor. A procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime.

I’m not here to debate the US legal system. I am here to say to you three very important things…

  1. Bill Cosby sexually assaulted a lot of women during his reign as “America’s dad.” The “overturning” of his conviction does not dispute that. Please don’t forget that. It’s a lesson to not get illusioned by reputation or title if someone discloses sexual assault or sexual abuse.
  2. If you are a victim of sexually assault or child sexual abuse, your voice matters.  You matter. Don’t let this stop you from speaking your truth.
  3. Karma’s a bitch.