- The Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) for the New York City School District found David Hay, the former deputy chief of staff for the New York City Department of Education arrested in December on charges of possession of child pornography and coercion or enticement of a minor, lied during the district's background vetting process, according to a statement to press.
- The investigation found Hay made more than a dozen false statements on questionnaires and other filings during the vetting process to hide his forced resignation as a Wisconsin principal in 2011, after he failed to get a required state education license and used a district credit card for personal use.
- According to the investigation, Hay falsely stated prior to his hiring and during his promotion within the DOE that he had never faced disciplinary action leading to resignation/termination. The NYC DOE said it will adopt the SCI's recommendations to improve the background check process.
Hay joined the nation's largest district amid a backlog of approximately 6,000 unfinished background checks that were pending when NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza took office in 2018.
But according to the commissioner's report, even if Hay's background check was completed prior to his hiring, the department would likely not have found out about his forced resignation in Wisconsin primarily because of an agreement between Hay and his previous employer, the Kettle Moraine School District (KMSD). The agreement prevented KMSD from disclosing any derogatory information about Hay as long as he resigned in lieu of being fired and if he agreed to "remain away from schools [and] offices of KMSD at any time."
Investigators conducting the background checks also would not have contacted KMSD based on Hay's false statements on vetting questionnaires suggesting he had never faced disciplinary action.
Despite Hay's arrest on child pornography and coercion charges, the report also found no evidence during the investigation related to sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior with children. A letter disclosed in the report from KMSD Superintendent Patricia Deklotz, sent to parents following Hay's arrest, says the district where he was formerly a principal had "no knowledge of any concerns" related to sexual misconduct or child pornography.
Hay was arrested after a sting investigation revealed he was sending sexually explicit texts to a person he believed was a 14-year-old boy he met on Grindr, an online dating application. On the day of his arrest, Hay had booked a hotel room in Wisconsin where he planned to meet the boy, who was actually an undercover police officer, for sex.
Further investigation revealed Hay's personal cellphone contained sexually explicit photos of a male who was underage at the time the photo was taken and attended Tomah High School, the school where Hay was principal.
The commissioner's report included several suggestions for the NYC DOE to improve its vetting process, including revising the standard procedure so investigators conducting background checks are required to contact previous employers about certain DOE candidates regardless of the candidates' answers on questionnaires.
The suggestions also include requiring future candidates to sign a release and waiver form allowing disclosure of information from previous employers, as well as enough resources and staff to conduct thorough background checks.
The director of the Department of Investigation's Background Investigation Unit, Alan Lefkof, reported to the commissioner there are approximately 20 employees conducting background checks on city employees, out of which some are focused on resolving the backlog of requests.
In request for comment, New York City Education Department spokesperson Miranda Barbot said the department "followed all protocols and procedures" during Hay's vetting and hiring process.
"Mr. Hay passed a criminal background check, was immediately fired when he was arrested, and SCI found no wrongdoing on behalf of the City," Barbot said in a statement. She confirmed the department will be adopting the commissioner's recommendations "to ensure our hiring processes are as thorough as possible.”