House Votes on Background Check Bill- UPDATED

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Yesterday, the House passed a bill mandating districts complete background checks on school employees. Districts must conduct the background checks in order to receive funds under ESEA. Districts must conduct background checks on all individuals seeking employment in the district or who are employed by the district and have a job duty that results in unsupervised access to students, or is contracted out to provide services for the district and has unsupervised access to students. The following checks would need to be run on all employees: 1) a search of state criminal registry or repository of the state in which the school employee resides, 2) a search of State-based child abuse and neglect registries and databases of the State in which the school employee resides, 3) a FBI finger print check, and 4) a search of the National Sex Offender Registry. These checks must be conducted “periodically,” but the specific frequency is determined by State law or by the school district when no State law exists.

Each potential or current school employee must be provided with the results of the criminal background check and provided the opportunity to appeal in a timely manner. A school district is allowed to share with another school district the results of a school employee’s recently conducted criminal background check if the district is considering hiring the school employee. A school district may not knowingly transfer or facilitate the transfer of any school employee the district knows, or has probable cause to believe, has engaged in sexual misconduct with a student. The Attorney General or State Attorney General may charge reasonable fees for conducting a criminal background check and the school district or State Education Agency may use administrative funds received under ESEA to pay for any reasonable fees for background checks.

No companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate, but given the bipartisan support for this bill it is likely to be added to the Senate ESEA bill when it moves to the floor. The bill was crafted in response to a 2010 GAO report that found school districts in some states failed to check the sexual offense statuses of school employees they hired and retained.

UPDATE: The version of the bill that passed yesterday removed the provision requiring districts to check the registries of all states where the employee previously resided.


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