Could fingerprint background checks become a standard requirement for teachers? It’s a question that legislators in North Carolina will be exploring in the coming months. A bill introduced in the state’s House of Representatives could reshape teacher background checks as a matter of state policy.
The legislation, currently labeled House Bill 240, would require teachers (as well as school and school district board members) to receive a fingerprint-based criminal history background check as part of North Carolina’s teacher licensing process.
If passed, House Bill 240 would not only demand fingerprint checks of all prospective teachers but also create a list of criminal convictions that would bar an individual from obtaining a teaching license in North Carolina. For instance, any violent crime “that indicates the employee poses a threat to the physical safety of students or personnel; or has demonstrated that he or she does not have the integrity or honesty to fulfill his or her duties as public school personnel” would disqualify a candidate from the licensing process. Such crimes include homicide, rape and other sex offenses, assaults, kidnapping or abduction, burglary, arson, robbery, prostitution, embezzlement, and fraud.
House Bill 240 does not reflect the first time that lawmakers in North Carolina have considered mandating fingerprint background checks for teachers. Conversations about teacher background check reform have gained steam in the state since a 2016 USA Today study gave North Carolina (and many other states) an “F” grade for its approach to holding teachers accountable for misconduct.
North Carolina’s letter grade was so low in part because the state had no system in place for vetting teachers at the licensing level. Instead, the responsibility for background screening was placed on schools and school districts. These entities also had to decide which background checks to use on teachers.
Despite past legislative efforts, the state still has no current requirement for fingerprinting of teachers. House Bill 240 has been reviewed by the House Education Committee and has been approved for consideration by the full House. Discussions on the bill will continue over the next few months.
North Carolina isn’t the only jurisdiction considering requiring fingerprint background screenings in an educational setting. In Oregon, the Ontario School District Board of Directors is considering a policy that would require fingerprint background checks for school volunteers. Currently, the school district requires fingerprint background screenings for all “licensed staff,” including teachers, counselors, and administrators. The proposed policy would extend that requirement to volunteers.
The push for fingerprint background screening policies reflects a common misconception that fingerprinting allows for a more thorough background screening. At backgroundchecks.com, we have spent time exploring this question in depth to help clients understand whether it is true. To learn all about fingerprint background checks and their pros and cons, read our blog post on the subject.
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