At a time when "Fair Chance" laws and "ban the box" movements have gained considerable steam nationwide, many hiring conversations focus on expanding the pool of acceptable applicants. However, in Indiana, a bill that may soon receive the governor's signature would go in the opposite direction for schools throughout the state. If signed, the new law would expand the number of convictions it considers disqualifying on school employee background checks.
The law goes even further: it would require schools across Indiana to fire any current employees with prior criminal records for crimes now included in the updated list. The bill’s sponsor says the goal is to ensure that individuals with the most serious criminal records cannot be in any position of authority or oversight involving children. Managing risks and preventing future crimes is the aim, they say.
The newly redefined list of automatically disqualifying offenses includes:
- Murder and voluntary manslaughter
- Aggravated battery
- Any sex offense
- Public indecency
- Neglect of dependents
During the legislative session, the law underwent an amendment process that moved some offenses from the "automatic disqualifier" list to one that functions differently. For this other class of crimes, most of the school's board would have to vote to hire an individual while making reports to the state. Some of those offenses include:
- Domestic battery
- Reckless homicide
- Non-marijuana-related drug convictions
Further, the bill stipulates that schools must check with all of an applicant's prior school districts to learn about any allegations of misconduct with students. The law would substantially overhaul the process for criminal background checks for schools in Indiana. More importantly, it could have a ripple effect beyond Indiana's border.
Legislation that proves popular or successful in one state will likely cross borders to be taken up by legislators in other states. When politicians can quickly point to a bill that seeks to keep out those with murder and sex offense convictions in their past, it seems likely that such provisions could soon be standard in other states.
Legislators, parents, and educational administrators have a serious appetite for change. The unfortunate procession of tragic headlines about teachers abusing students seems to have continued and increased in recent years.
In Kentucky, one teacher was arrested for child pornography charges while on campus during the school day. In Ohio, a teacher was arraigned on sexual battery charges after he had an inappropriate relationship with a student. These stories are more common than they once were, and many involved continue looking for solutions to reduce the risk of such harm.
With Indiana poised to set a new standard that puts employee background checks front and center for schools, proper vetting may become even more important for educators. As compliance requirements change and pressure mounts to make schools safer, administrators should be proactive about equipping their districts with the tools to maintain a secure learning environment.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments