On October 22, 2013, a House bill was passed in Washington that obliges public schools to background screen all of their employees for past crimes, especially sexual offenses, before hiring them. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind) says that the bill makes no exceptions: “Every school employee, from the cafeteria workers to the administrators, to the janitors and the teachers, including principals and librarians”; Each must be screened under this proposed law. The Washington Post reports that the bill was proposed to address varying state regulations for handling school employees with known criminal histories, whereby loopholes or individual state level inconsistencies are addressed.
To put things into perspective, keep in mind that some states suspend the teaching license of teachers who are found guilty of sexual offenses, while other states may go as far as firing such employees immediately. Should this bill get the thumbs-up from the Senate, companies that offer public records search services, such as the Accu-Facts Company, may find themselves working more closely with various public schools in the future. Aside from providing pre-employment screening services, these companies also offer voluntary screening services for individuals who wish to prove that they have clean records, to meet the terms of this proposed House bill.
Creating a system for hiring personnel to conduct a thorough public records search is very important not only for public schools, but also for companies of all sizes. Many states already employ a mandatory or statutory guideline for fingerprinting prospective teachers, but this rule does not always apply to all the other staff and personnel that have access to a school environment. Knowing that it is prudent to conduct and validate as many background screening tasks, and sources of information, it is a greater safety issue more now than ever.
Public records research is an obvious source for verifying past criminal history or domestic violence conduct for anyone, while the FCRA hiring guidelines are paramount for hiring full-time employees of any type, but also it must include parent volunteers, part-time staff such as coaches, and substitute personnel of any sort, along with all other third party vendors that have unfettered access to enter the school property. A properly signed Release Form is relevant for every person. So, in all these placement situations, it is important to quantify the policy, implement a process to screen each and every person, while having an accountable administrator in charge for compliance and audit purposes.
With the way things are right now, an effective employment screening program is set to become an even more primary concern for public schools throughout the country, with this proposed bill. Despite criticism that a public records search may constitute a breach of privacy, in a hiring circumstance, it ultimately benefits the safety of schools, students, and aspiring teachers themselves. How policy and practice changes, if this is passed, then all these human resource issues will be sorted out over time.
(Article Excerpt and Image from House approves bill making public schools check employee records for sexual, other offenses, The Washington Post, October 23, 2013)