Monday, November 14, 2011

ABC station in DC asks whether teaching applicants should be polygraphed

In Washington, ABC affiliate WJLA ran a story this evening (Nov. 14) about suggestions that new teachers should be required to take lie detector or polygraph tests. The idea comes not so much from the recent Penn State mess, as from a pattern of increasing arrests since about 2005. But this pattern may have occurred because of the Internet: not does it only provoke some crimes (as in Chris Hansen’s Dateline series that aired then) it also leads to much more public awareness and demands for action from law enforcement.
But if polygraphs are not admissible in court in criminal trials, should they be used in employment screening? But you can ask this question about their use in high level security clearances. 

So instead, the application process could use voice-stress analysis, a true-false personality test, or even new technologies like “no lie MRI”. 

School districts say they are lukewarm on the idea, because of cost.

New teachers, included subs (to be hired for daily jobs from lists), do undergo fingerprint checks, but these generally only find actual past convictions. 

And in the past, some school districts have hired troubled teachers because of the practice of “passing the trash”. 

Lie detection technology might focus on applicants with “fantasy” issues but no actual misconduct – just a “propensity” – a kind of “pre-crime” detection as in the movie “Minority Report”.  It might focus on those who seem to lack “adult” relationships already. 

The story headline focuses just on testing “accused” teachers, but the discussion would make the testing apply to everyone.

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