Ocean Springs Schools Try To Keep Criminals Away From Kids

Melanie Steenwyk believes her love of children is the reason she was chosen PTO President at Taconi Elementary this year.

"Our house is always full. We always have lots of children, not only my 3, but neighborhood children as well."

With two sons in elementary school in Ocean Springs, Steenwyk can't help but worry sometimes about their safety.

"Any parent is a little, especially at the beginning of the year, leaving your child with strangers basically."

This year, the Ocean Spring School District is taking another precaution to protect students and staff. The school board wants to expand its hiring policy, forcing contractors that work around children to undergo criminal background and child abuse registry checks.

"Basically, it's crimes with children, sexual or inappropriate behavior," Superintendent Anna Hurt said.

That includes janitors, construction workers, and vending services employees. The move was prompted by a child abduction case in March.

"That was in Florida. That was someone who was not employed at the time when he committed the crime, but they later found out that he had worked construction on a school site. It made national news and that's why it came to the attention of our board."

The policy change means peace of mind for Ocean Springs mom Melanie Steenwyk.

"It's nice to know that they're looking out for the children and doing the best they can to find backgrounds to make sure our children are in good hands."

The policy does give the superintendent some flexibility in hiring. For instance, when a school needs a contractor to make emergency repairs. Once the school board officially adopts the policy change, it will go into effect July 12th.