- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 13, 2005

The company hired to provide security guards for D.C. Public Schools ran afoul of some of its employees when their pay checks bounced. Earlier this summer, we learned that some school guards had criminal records. Both problems should give city officials — whether elected or appointed — considerable impetus to more closely scrutinize the management and effectiveness of the privatization program.

The Metropolitan Police Department began overseeing school security in July. Oversight was taken from the school system after parents and students decried the bloodshed recurring inside and outside schools. The police department drew substantial public criticism when an audit revealed that some school guards had been licensed despite the fact that they had criminal records. Clearly, in each of those licensing instances, police and school officials simply were not paying close enough attention. Because these guards interact with our children on a daily basis, the background of an applicant should be scoured before he even reaches the level of becoming a prospective hire.

Both the background checks and the bounced checks are wake-up calls as opening day of the 2005-06 school year nears. The police said they are looking more closely at applicants and prospects. (We certainly hope so.) For its part, Hawk One Security Inc., the firm hired to protect our school children, said it has fixed the problem. Patrick McRae, a senior executive with Hawk One, said a lack of cash was not the problem. “The money was there,” he told reporter Jim McElhatton. “The checks were from one account, but the funds were in another.”

Carolyn Graham, the vice president of the school board, said Hawk One “has to be looked at very closely.” She also said, “There’s no excuse. It gives me great concern. School is out right now. But when we start, one has to wonder about their readiness.”

Parents fully appreciate her “great concern” about the guards’ readiness for the new school year. Her more pertinent concern, however, should be whether the schools will be ready to receive our children.

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