HPSD background checks do not reveal arrest records

HPSD background checks do not reveal arrest records
Photo credit: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A Hattiesburg woman has been put on administrative leave by the Hattiesburg Public School District after being arrested in connection to a federal indictment, which led authorities to 18 kilos of cocaine and $1.1 million in cash.

This is not the first time Shalonda Hill has faced the law.

Hill was hired by HPSD in 2012, just two years after being arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute in January 2010 and again with possession of cocaine and marijuana in September of that same year.

HPSD Communications Director Jas N Smith said that Hill was asked on her application in 2012 of any arrests and an explanation of the case; however, her previous arrests were not considered in the hiring process because she was never convicted.

“The background check system that we use in the district is a federal background system, and they will report on things that are convictions, but they don't actually report arrests,” explained Smith.

Hill was arrested last week in connection to a federal indictment and is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and engaging in monetary transactions in a property derived from unlawful activity.

She pleaded not guilty to that multi-count indictment in federal court Wednesday, and her pre existing unsecured bond of $25,000 was upheld. Hill was released and given a December 8 trial date.

“She's currently on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the state and the federal investigation,” said Smith of the third grade teacher's status with the district. “As soon as they update us to the outcome of that, we'll proceed further based on our policy for employees and staff conduct.”

Compared to area school districts Petal and Lamar County, background checks in those schools do reveal arrest records, contrary to Hattiesburg's checks.

Both Lamar County and Petal School Districts have a three-level background check. The first step is a fingerprint scan; the second step is a search through an FBI database; and a third is a predator report.

While HPSD does not receive an arrest report through their check, Petal and Lamar County said some arrests serve as a red flag, regardless of whether there is a conviction.

“If something shows up, we'll do more investigation,” said Petal's Director of Human Resources Margaret Tynes.

Lamar County superintendent Tess Smith echoed that effort.

“It's a case-by-case basis,” said Smith, who explained that the district “would really do some investigating” if arrests showed up related to drugs, felonies, marital abuse, or DUI for applicants who would operate school vehicles.

Hill is a third grade teacher at Rowan Elementary School, which is a grade measured for student success and has recently been given more responsibilities under the state's Third Grade Gate program.

Smith said Hill's classroom is currently staffed by a substitute teacher, and the district will determine if hiring a full time teacher is necessary “if it [Hill's absence] seems to extend past a certain amount of time.”

For more information on Hill's arrest, click