Ensuring that our children are safe while they are away from home is something on the minds of all parents these days. And despite seemingly gloomy news, real strides in weeding out individuals who pose a threat to children have been made in the last decade.
While running a statewide background check has been the normal policy in school districts for some time, this did little for people who committed crimes outside of the state. Requiring fingerprinting alone also provided little protection.
Now, every state requires some form of national background checking for educators and many other employee positions within school systems.
Who gets tested?
Although laws across the U.S. pertain to educators, many of them require testing for other school-related jobs like:
- Bus drivers
- Cafeteria workers
- Substitute teachers
- Principals and superintendents of all public and private schools
- Day care centers
- After-school programs
- Applicants who want to adopt children or become foster parents
Some states do give schools some leeway as to who they fingerprint – a school crossing guard is a common example. However, many states’ laws do not require their fingerprints be run nationally. Districts are left to decide if any volunteers are run through the national criminal database along with the state one that is required.
Who does the testing?
The individual school, the school district or the superintendent often works with a company specializing in background checks for teachers.
However, there are several websites that will provide results almost in an instant, but information can be unreliable, which is why it’s important school districts use a certified company. Instant-result sites though can be used by an individual parent to learn more about their child’s teacher.
National Standards for Testing
Every state requires schools to either check the background of their applicants. The applicants’ names are run through a national or state database (some states require both and some only require the state base). These checks usually are for previous criminal offenses or to check for an applicant’s fingerprints in the system.
Pennsylvania, for example, has strict requirements. Before clearing an applicant to teach, they are required to get a federal criminal history record, a Pennsylvania state criminal record check and a Department of Public Welfare Child Abuse History Clearance. They do not, however, have a fingerprinting policy.
Massachusetts is the last state to begin requiring national background checks for school (both private and public) workers. Previously, only a statewide criminal check was required and no fingerprint check was required. Sadly, this did little to detect crimes committed out of state. In addition to requiring the national checks, Massachusetts schools will still require the state checks be performed every 3 years.
Teacher Background Check Procedure
A typical background check on teachers happens before they are actually hired. While the check may differ from one school district to another, they all involve checking:
- Criminal history
- Driving records
- Civil records
- Health and medical records
- Current and previous addresses
- Job background
- Credit check and bankruptcies (in some cases)
Those who are new to teaching or those who have moved to a new educational district are required to have background testing performed. The application process often includes (in addition to the above criteria) drug and alcohol testing and reference checking.
Background checks (for various purposes) will continue to be of importance to our society, and are in place to try and ensure the people charged with educating our kids do not have criminal records.