Drug dealers and thieves patrolling public school hallways

CLEVELAND – The Investigator, Tom Meyer, takes an exclusive look at who citizens of Cleveland are paying to keep the city's children safe. He finds out that included in the "security" staff patrolling public school hallways are convicted drug dealers and thieves.

The investigation starts with David Coleman -- the man in charge of security for Cleveland Schools. His own security staff told The Investigator that he's been missing in action.

"He said he was going to make inspections and visit us on our sites, (but) he's never been to any of the buildings I've been in," security guard Kevin Bell said.

Those school buildings have proven to be a hotbed of trouble. Nearly 700 assaults were committed in them this year, including almost 200 student attacks against teachers.

So, where has Coleman been?

He's been off getting a police commission in Cleveland Heights, not on his own time, but on school time. Coleman, who gets paid $95,000 a year to keep the schools safe, took classes during the school day for nearly five months.

"When you have hundreds of personnel out in the field and a number of serious incidents, it is important for there to be strong leadership on duty and running the show," Clevelander Ken Trump, a national school security consultant, said.

Critics have said that if Coleman wanted a police commission, he should have gotten it on his own time, especially since it's not even required.

Coleman stayed out of sight when an Action News crew showed up to try to get answers. He had the school district's public relations spokesman, Alan Seifullah, do the talking instead.

"If you want to criticize the decision, you can criticize the decision, but the CEO in charge of the district said go ahead and do it," Seifullah said.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett thought Coleman's commission would set a high standard for the security staff -- a staff that The Investigator found includes convicted felons.

When confronted about his own sketchy past, officer Bell apparently forgot that he had a felony drug conviction on his record. Eventually, he took back his denials.

Action News found a dozen security personnel, including Bell, with criminal records.

When The Investigator approached Taldon Ballard with a copy of his mug shot taken back in 1998, the officer admitted that it was him, but quickly told the Action News crew that they couldn't film in the school building.

Ballard was busted on drug charges. So, how did he and other lawbreakers get hired?

"If they were hired prior to 1993, there were no disclosure requirements," school district lawyer Adrian Thompson told The Investigator. "If they were hired after 1993, you look at the offense committed."

In 1993, Senate bill 38 outlawed schools from hiring violent criminals like killers, muggers or sex offenders. However, if you're a thief or busted for drugs or carrying a concealed weapon or attempting to receive stolen property, you've still got a chance at being employed as a school security guard.

"I'm not saying it's OK. I'm saying, legally, it's permissible," Thompson said.

"They should be running a professional security department, not a rehabilitation center for former offenders," Trump said. "There are places for that in the community. It's not in our schools with our children."

The Cleveland Municipal School District now has a system in place that could remove lawbreakers from the payroll. Security officers convicted of crimes are required to tell their boss or risk losing their job.