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Springfield Public Schools Discusses Background Checks

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- According to Springfield Public Schools, Craig Michael Wood, who has been charged in connection with the abduction and murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens, worked for the district since 1998. Most recently, he has worked as a paraprofessional and coach at Pleasant View K-8 School. In interviews with parents at Pleasant View, we've heard a mix of sadness and frustration. People are asking how could wood be employed by the district for 15 years without a single red flag?
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Generations of the Bingham family have attended Pleasant View Elementary and Middle School.

"We were so proud when our granddaughter started school there, and now to have this matter come up with Pleasant View, in the situation that it is, that's what concerns us."

Bob Bingham says his granddaughter recently told him and his daughter she noticed Craig Wood watching her Physical Education class.

"Man would come in and sit on the bleachers and watch the P.E. classes and her and her little friends would talk that it would creep them out that he was there with the," he said.

According to Springfield Public Schools, Craig Wood passed all background checks which look into a potential hire's criminal history-- once when he was initially hired in 1998, another when he was hired full time in 2006, followed by annual checks.

Parker McKenna is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Springfield Public Schools.

"We also conduct a Family Safety Care Registry check," said McKenna. "So all of that information Review all information together and anytime there's any information in that background which causes us any concern, we review that very closely and determine whether to move forward with employment."

McKenna said drug tests are excluded from the hiring of paraprofessionals. Online court documents reveal wood pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 1990.

"If we had any information which would've led us to believe that this person could've been a danger to anyone in the school community, they're not somebody we would've employed," he said.

Even with these policies in place, many parents and grandparents worry of the possibility that what happened Hailey Owens may happen again. Bingham said there is an important lesson from this tragedy.

"Getting the young girls to open up and come to the parents, not necessarily the school leaders but the parents," he said. "The parents are the ones who need to go to the schools and tell the schools about it"

McKenna said the district is working closely with law enforcement and cooperating with the investigation. The Missouri State Highway Patrol administers the criminal background checks. Sgt. Steve Frisbie said anyone can go to the Missouri Automated Criminal History website, www.machs.mshp.dps.mo.gov, and run a name-bases check on an individual-- parents can search this site if they are concerned about their child's teacher.

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