‘Not everything is on your background check’: Charleston Co. Schools to monitor applicants’ social media

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 7:42 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 8:58 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Every prospective employee at the Charleston County School District undergoes a criminal background check that uses national databases, such as the sex offender registry. But the district says that just isn’t cutting it these days.

Social media has posed a new challenge for the HR department, director Kreshenda Jenkins says.

Earlier this year, the district signed an annual renewable contract with Ferretly, an artificial intelligence powered social media screening service.

According to its website, it’s the “smartest background screening platform on the market” that analyses and identifies posts with bullying, drugs, violence and hate speech among other “harmful” topics.

It claims to process thousands of posts in seconds.

Jenkins says there was no one incident that led to the decision to pursue the service.

It was a suggestion by former superintendent Gerrita Postlewaite.

“We thought it would be a good idea to be proactive instead of reactive,” Jenkins said. “It’s just extra precaution that we’re taking just to make sure that we’re ensuring that we’re vetting our employees carefully.”

But it doesn’t come without added cost: $29,500 in taxpayer dollars.

“I don’t think you can put a price on the safety of our students and our staff,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s well worth it to invest in in our employees and making sure that we are attracting and also hiring the best type of employees that we can.”

The district put out a request for proposal in October 2021 and received multiple responses.

Ferretly won the contract based on the district’s scoring method.

The service isn’t in use yet, and it won’t be for another month or two.

It does require consent, however candidates won’t be hired if they decline permission to run the checks, as is the case with current background checks.

Ferretly also provides a “continuous monitoring” service, though Jenkins says it’s just for the candidates for now.

“I think we could potentially use it if there’s just cause. But not just random searches on employees. No,” Jenkins said.

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