Tenele Griffon rested his head on an umbrella as he sat on a wooden bench at the end of a line of people in DuBourg Hall at Saint Louis University. He was supposed to start his new job as a bus driver in Hazelwood Monday. Instead, he spent the first half of the week trying to complete his mandatory background check.
Last week Griffon went to the places that used to record fingerprints, only to learn they no longer had a state contract. He arrived at the only location in St. Louis fingerprinting people for background checks shortly after 10 a.m., only to find dozens of people ahead of him in line.
“It’s just a headache,” he said.
By 4 p.m., he was still waiting.
“I had plans on coming down here real quick, hopefully getting this done in 30 minutes or so and then going home and taking the wife out for lunch or something like that,” he said.
Griffon was one of hundreds of school workers caught in the backlog. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, which manages the state background check system, changed providers this month, resulting in a temporary reduction in fingerprinting sites across the state.
People said they waited more than six hours Wednesday to use the only fingerprinting machine in St. Louis or St. Louis County; others gave up. By mid-afternoon, the contractor location on North Grand Boulevard started turning people away.
Schools started at most Missouri districts this week and proof of the background check is required before new employees begin work.
Griffon said his new employer has been understanding of the delay. So have other districts in the area. Ladue, Parkway, St. Louis Public Schools and Rockwood all said the backlog of background checks has resulted in a number of support staff and teacher’s assistants not being able to start their jobs on time.
“It’s been quite a mess,” said Ladue School District spokeswoman Susan Downing.
Background checks are mandatory for any state or public employee working with children. The state awarded the new contract to IdentoGO in early August.
IdentoGO has locations in St. Charles and Union, Missouri. But people at the St. Louis site said all three sites were equally as busy this week. The company’s website lists other locations that will open later month.
In a statement, IdentoGO’s parent company, IDEMIA, blamed “a late start” in getting the contract from Missouri.
“IDEMIA has 25 operational enrollment centers throughout the state, and will have nearly 40 by the end of next week. In the meantime, IDEMIA is sending one of our enrollment RVs to the St. Louis area and eight enrollment agents from other states to establish temporary enrollment centers in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas,” the statement said.
Capt. John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the department is aware of the backlog and has added its own staff at some locations to help speed the process. The St. Louis location processed 216 applications from Monday through Wednesday, Hotz said.
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