A MISSOURI TEACHER ACCUSED OF MURDERING A YOUNG GIRL; IT SHOULD’VE BEEN PREVENTED BEFORE SHE WAS EVEN BORN
A MISSOURI TEACHER ACCUSED OF MURDERING A YOUNG GIRL; IT SHOULD’VE BEEN PREVENTED BEFORE SHE WAS EVEN BORN.
Summary: Craig Wood, a former coach and assistant teacher at a Springfield, MO primary school, is charged with first-degree murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens. This possibly could have been prevented had the school district conducted a background check prior to hiring Wood back in 1998, six years before Hailey Owens was born.
A tragic story broke last week in Springield, Missouri about a 10-year-old girl who was allegedly abducted while walking home, and murdered by the hands of 45-year-old Craig Wood, a former teacher and coach in the Springfield area. A young female body was found in Wood’s home inside of trash bags: with a gunshot wound in the skull, and ligature marks on her arms, and authorities believe it was missing 10-year-old girl Hailey Owens, who had turned up missing the day before. There were signs of foul play, and evidence related to the girl’s abduction. Wood has since been charged with first-degree murder, and held in jail.
What if I told you that this could have been prevented? How astonishing is it that Hailey Owens’ death could have been prevented before she was even born? Well, perhaps it could have. The Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools (SPS) confirmed that Wood had worked with the school district since 1998. Internet research shows that Wood had a criminal record, having pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 1990 and was given a suspended sentence following drug counseling. The only problem is that state educators were unaware of this information. In fact, Wood had his first background check in 2006 in conjunction with Missouri’s then-new requirement for teachers to be checked and fingerprinted.
Missouri made a strong step forward in 2006 by requiring background checks; however, this should not completely absolve SPS of responsibility. It’s a reasonable assumption that if a check was done on him in 1998 that his past criminal record would still not show up; on the flip side, the time gap between 1998-2006 might have been enough for it to not show up, as 2006 was 16 years after it happened. This part is understandable; what isn’t understandable is that his criminal conviction might not have been enough to prevent his hiring, even if it had shown up.
Something must be done to prevent this type of thing from happening in California schools. Schools have done better with background checks in recent years, but people like this continue to fall through the cracks. How do we fix this? There is no easy answer, but one possible solution might be a Continuous Evaluation Program, which would require schools to routinely monitor behavior of current teachers, along with conducting background checks prior to hiring. An additional measure, being initiated in Kansas, is subjecting teachers to drug testing along with fingerprints. In each of these scenarios, pundits can argue that these recommendations, along with any other type of pre-screening or evaluation program, will not catch every would-be criminal. That is absolutely true; however, standing idly by and hoping nothing bad happens is an exercise in futility…if even one life is saved by such measures, it should be heralded as a success.
We have recently written about the importance of conducting background checks; a tragic story like this should only underscore the urgency of the situation. We grieve with the family of Hailey Owens, and hope that justice is served.
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Hailey Owens case raises issue of background checks for teachers