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GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – Parents are raising questions about the hiring process in one North Texas school district. The concerns came after learning a teacher was removed from the classroom – suspended because of an arrest and charges he faces out-of-state.
The main issue being voiced is that students, not administrators, were the ones who uncovered Grand Prairie Collegiate Institute teacher Christopher Durham’s secret.
Since it was a few key clicks on a search engine that uncovered the schoolteacher’s troubles, officials with the Grand Prairie Independent School District say they are now considering doing Google searches on all potential new hires.
Durham is due back in court next month to face charges related to a 2013 incident. An affidavit from the district attorney’s office in Oklahoma City alleges that during his divorce proceeding Durham’s attorney turned him in for “threatening” the judge and other lawyers.
The court papers allege Durham said he was “capable of doing things along the line of what just happened in Newtown, Connecticut.” Six educators and 20 first-graders were killed during a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
One 6th grade Parent said, “It kind of makes you worried that something like that happened. It just makes you worried. I don’t know what else you can do about it… just makes you feel unsafe about your children attending certain schools I guess.”
Officials in the Grand Prairie school district say they didn’t learn about Durham’s arrest until Friday. “We do a legally sound background and reference check, both name-based and fingerprint-based,” explained GPISD spokesman Sam Buchmeyer. District officials say those “checks” never picked up Durham’s arrest.
Ironically, while the 46-year-old teacher did not disclose any information about the criminal allegations against him to GPISD administrators when he was hired in August, he did tell young students in his STEM class to, “Look me up. I’m famous.”
One parent said she doesn’t understand why Durham would even bring up the topic in class. “Something from the past, that long ago, I would have just buried it and left it alone. I don’t understand why a teacher would bring that up to kids,” she said.
Durham, who has not been convicted of any crime, has been suspended until the Grand Prairie ISD investigation is complete. He did say that he wants to share his side of the story, but because of school district guidelines cannot speak will he awaits the district’s decision.
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