Moore school officials unaware of aide's convictions
Posted December 2, 2009 6:09 p.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2009 12:32 p.m. EST
Southern Pines, N.C. — A teacher's assistant with a criminal history worked for Moore County Schools for more than seven years without administrators knowing about her past.
Anita Evette Miller, 41, resigned Tuesday from her job at Southern Pines Elementary School after WRAL News asked Moore County Schools officials about her background. School district spokesman Tim Lussier declined to say whether the two actions were related.
Miller was indicted in April 2002 on an involuntary manslaughter charge in connection with an October 2001 wreck on N.C. Highway 211 that killed Brian Moore. Authorities said Miller was speeding when she tried to pass two cars and a school bus on a two-lane road, colliding head-on with Moore's car.
Seven months later, she landed a job as a substitute teacher in Moore County.
Lussier said the district has a long-standing policy barring employment to anyone with a felony charge or conviction. Officials said nothing in Miller's pre-employment background check indicated she had a pending felony charge against her.
"We do have checks and balances that we do check, but when you have so many employees, it's hard to keep up with everyone and everything," said Kathy Farren, chairwoman of the Moore County Board of Education.
Miller was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in April 2004 and was placed on probation for three years.
A year later, while still a working as a substitute teacher, she was charged with embezzling $2,000 from a convenience store where she also worked. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor larceny in the case and was ordered to repay the money and serve two years on probation.
Despite the two convictions, the school district hired her in January 2007 as a full-time teacher's assistant.
Lussier said school officials never received any complaints about Miller.
"If we do get a concern expressed to us about an employee, we will certainly check it out and investigate it," he said.
Still, some parents of Southern Pines Elementary students said they were alarmed to learn that a convicted felon had been working in the school.
"They're coming in contact with children, (and) they shouldn't be," parent Mike Russell said. "I always thought they needed to do a better job of screening people that they hire in the public schools to work with the children."
Farren said background checks have become stricter in recent years, but she said employees slip through the cracks in many businesses.
"I think it’s not something that doesn’t happen in a lot of places, not just in school systems, but in a lot of businesses,” she said.
Miller couldn't be reached Wednesday for comment.