Hassan Signs Claremont-Sponsored Bill to Bolster School Background Checks

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2016 11:39:38 PM
Modified: 5/20/2016 11:39:49 PM

Claremont — Gov. Maggie Hassan this week signed legislation to strengthen background checks for prospective school workers in New Hampshire, a law spurred by the sexual assault conviction two years ago of a Stevens High teacher with a criminal past.

“Ensuring public safety, especially for our schools and our young people, is state government’s most important responsibility, and we must always work together to strengthen protections for our most vulnerable and to keep students and children safe from harm,” Hassan said in a statement released Thursday, the day she signed the measure.

“By facilitating stronger criminal record checks on potential school employees and designated school volunteers, Senate Bill 152 will strengthen our efforts to protect students and help superintendents identify patterns of behavior that could impact the safety of our schools,” she said.

Claremont lawmakers pushed for the legislation in the wake of the 2014 conviction of a Stevens High School math teacher who sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl who was a student.

Only after the crimes were committed did school officials learn that the teacher, Christopher LeBlanc, had prior convictions.

Claremont Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin and the girl’s mother, who both pushed for the legislation, have said that LeBlanc previously had been charged with at least one felony from an earlier incident elsewhere, but had pleaded to a misdemeanor that didn’t appear during a background check of his criminal record.

The new law will provide a school district’s superintendent or chief executive officer with more information about felony or misdemeanor convictions on a job applicant’s record.

LeBlanc’s victim testified in support of the legislation, and the girl’s mother on Friday said she herself had made about a half-dozen trips to Concord to help push the measure through.

She said they are “thrilled” by its passage.

“It’s a vital piece of information that has been missing, and hopefully school boards now will have the information they need to make safe hiring decisions,” she said.

John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.



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