Reston, VA

fcps logoFairfax County Public Schools has discovered it mistakenly hired seven convicted felons — and did not notice the error until years later.

Schools superintendent Karen Garza who joined FCPS in July, told The Washington Post that human error contributed to the hirings, which were discovered when a James Madison High School special education teacher inquired whether her past conviction for heroin smuggling would hamper her shot at a promotion.

“The hirings all occurred before 2009, when Fairfax schools switched to an online application,” Garza said in a statement. “The new system automatically disqualifies potential employees who disclose felonies on their application. Human error played a part in these hirings and we deeply regret this mistake.”

None of the felonies were crimes against children, the school system says. However, Virginia school law bans school systems from hiring felons.

Still, Deilia Butler was hired by FCPS 2006 — after serving nearly four years in prison. She says she stated she was a convicted felon on her application. So did the other six employees, school officials said.

All seven of the employees have been relieved of their jobs, school officials said. Four, including Butler, were placed on administrative leave after school officials uncovered the error. Three others left the school system. School officials have not identified the other employees, specified what jobs they held or the nature of their crimes.

FCPS now has an online application system that automatically disqualifies an applicant if he or she states they have been convicted of a felony. All applicants go through background searches that are supposed to include checking FBI, police and child abuse databases, says FCPS.

The hirings of the felons all occurred before 2009, before the online system was in place.

The Post reports that Butler is fighting FCPS’ efforts to fire her, saying that Virginia law did not prevent the school system from hiring her. Butler was among dozens charged in a 34-count federal indictment of conspiring to import more than a kilogram of heroin into the United States. She served 42 months in prison, then earned her teacher’s license and later joined Fairfax schools,  according to court records.

Do potential felons in the school system concern you? Are you confident FCPS has new security checks in place? Tell us in the comments.

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