Precinct 333

Monday, December 27, 2004

Sex And Drug Offenders Are Nurses

Whenever I apply for a teaching job, there are background checks and a host of other investigations that must be run before I can be hired -- and I am required to pay for them by some districts. That's why this news story angers me so deeply.
Scores of licensed nurses in Texas are convicted drug and sex offenders, and some of them are working in violation of state law, a newspaper investigation has found.

An analysis by The Dallas Morning News found that 57 licensed Texas nurses are felony sex offenders, including 31 who are listed in the state sex-offender registry. About 140 nurses have felony drug records, and about half of them hold current nursing licenses.

This particular case is particularly offensive to me.
In one case, teacher Shellie Jorden was sentenced to five years deferred adjudication for fondling one of his fifth-graders in San Antonio. Authorities recommended he no longer teach kids, and the state revoked his teaching license.

But no one restricted the vocational nursing license he also held. Jorden, registered as a sex offender, successfully completed his community supervision and returned to nursing.

Now, at the community health clinic where he works, Jorden spends about half his time working with young children seeking immunizations. He said he understands concern about whether he should be working as a nurse.

"I can see your point," he said.

But, he added, "all it was, was an allegation." He said he pleaded guilty because "that was the best thing for me at the time. It's not actually that I'd done anything or harmed a child."

Why aren't these folks being checked? The answer is MONEY. The legislature won't appropriate enough money to immediately run background checks on all nurses, and doing them as licenses come up for renewal will take a decade. In the mean time, these cases are a tragedy waiting to happen -- especially because courts are not required to notify the state that the holder of a nursing license has been convicted of a drug or sex crime, which is required when someone with a teaching certificate is convicted. That one common sense change needs to happen as soon as the legislature comes into session in January.


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