Criminal Background Checks for Schools: Requirements for Public vs Private Institutions
Most parents would expect a criminal background check for schools to be mandatory in hiring. From teachers to custodians and everyone in between, families want peace of mind about the place where their children will spend eight hours a day for years. In cases where institutions don’t comply with properly vetting employees or don’t complete the process, the risk of harm to children is genuine. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of stories about teachers or others in schools who misuse their position to abuse or harm children.
Teacher background checks don’t guarantee that someone will always behave appropriately, but they help educational organizations establish essential baseline understandings. Someone who has a violent felony history or is a registered sex offender is not likely to be someone suitable to work with children. Hence, many states and local school districts have unambiguous screening policies that make background checks mandatory.
However, not everyone faces the same level of regulation. In some states, private schools do not legally require accreditation to operate. Policies are left mainly to private school administrators to shape. However, in recent years, there has been an increasing shift in some states toward using public dollars for private schools. Voucher programs and other so-called “school choice” funds give parents in some areas state money to pay for private school tuition.
In states with such programs, a fierce debate has erupted in some corners over how much oversight governments should be able to exercise into private schools in exchange for that cash. To unravel that debate and explore what today’s school administrators should consider, we should begin with the fundamental differences in screening requirements.
What are the key differences in requirements?
Public schools and most daycare centers are subject to the direct oversight of the districts and states where they operate. Legislators can set guidelines, including the type of childcare background check organizations must use. Periodically, states adjust these requirements in response to issues or problems.
In private schools, the reality is different. There is no blanket requirement for such educators to use background checks. While schools may adopt such policies voluntarily, there is little government oversight into how schools administer those policies. This lack can lead to situations where schools skirt background checks, delay them, or forego them altogether if it means filling a vital position.
Lawmakers continue debating the appropriate measures
In states providing public funds for private school enrollment, the lack of oversight has proven troubling to many legislators—but not enough to change the law. In New Hampshire, Democrats advanced a bill through the state House that required private schools to use public dollars to implement mandatory background checks on many staff members. Republicans in opposition believe that the law isn’t necessary since many private schools voluntarily use checks. Those opposed to the bill also believe it is potentially over-reaching.
The New Hampshire bill looks set to fail. However, legislative attention focused on this area should serve as a wake-up call to private school administrators.
Why should private schools vet employees thoroughly?
Parents want to know that their children are safe at any age. All schools should consider their vetting as crucial as any childcare criminal background check. Even without a legislative requirement, you can foster a safer environment with a thorough and precise screening process applied equally across a private school.
Not only does such an effort help create a safer environment on campus, but it can also serve as a selling point. Attracting enrollment is always a challenge for private school operators. Showcasing to parents that you screen candidates thoroughly to keep children safe is one vital way to demonstrate your commitment to quality education.
Setting up reliable background screening for school employees
Private schools can face financial pressures that make operations more challenging. However, setting up a fast and cost-effective screening process is simple with backgroundchecks.com. Schools can immediately set up a streamlined system with packages to facilitate a criminal background check for schools and a convenient self-entry program for applicants. As school administrators look to improve security and safety on campus, a reliable screening partner can make a difference. Explore your options today—even when vetting isn’t mandated by law.
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