Teacher’s Aides in Iowa aren’t Required to Have Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 1/25/2013

State law in Iowa does not require teacher’s aides to undergo background checks before or after employment, even though they have direct contact with minors. Most school districts still have their teacher’s aides go through some sort of screening process anyway, though it generally isn’t as thorough as the background checks that teachers, administrators, and coaches go through. In 2002, federal law was changed so that all teachers were required to undergo criminal background checks, and in 2007, Iowa law made it so that any teacher licensed by the state had to have a federal and state background check to comply with the federal law. The background checks required for teachers are quite comprehensive. The school districts do a nationwide criminal background check and they take fingerprints to run through the FBI database. However, these checks are not provided for aides, which still leaves children open to potentially hostile and dangerous people.

Many parents in Iowa are concerned about the lack of policy for teacher’s aides, especially because an aide was fired last week when it was discovered that she was involved with the torture and murder of a young girl. Paula Baniszewski, the woman who was fired, spent time in prison for her contribution to the murder of a young girl in 1965. She was employed under a false last name and wasn’t given a background check upon being hired by the school district. The reason teacher’s aides aren’t required to have background checks is because they are not licensed, and the laws only cover people who are licensed by the state.

One mother, who has three children in the school district, says that the laws should be more severe since it deals with people who have contact with children. She says it would be terrifying to look at the background of some people who are hired by the state’s school districts if someone like Bansiszewski can be hired so easily. Ken Trump, a member of the National School Safety and Security Services, says that federal background checks for all school workers could take extra time and money and could delay the hiring process. However, districts that don’t do background checks also risk losing their credibility. Recently, Iowa lawmakers discussed a bill that would make federal background checks for all school district employees mandatory, but the bill that passed only required bus drivers to now undergo criminal background checks. For all other employees, it’s up to the school leaders to make decisions about who needs comprehensive background checks prior to employment.

Companies like provide comprehensive background searches that employ a nationwide criminal database. The service used to search the database is called US OneSearch and it uses information from 49 different states as well as Washington DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Other useful services include US AliasSearch, which uses the same comprehensive nationwide criminal database as US OneSearch, but also searches for known aliases and maiden names. It uses a SSN and date of birth to access this information. Employers can also take advantage of the ongoing criminal monitoring tool, which allows employers to be constantly updated on their employee’s criminal history. If the employee commits a criminal act while employed, the employer will receive an email notification about the new information on their background history. This service can be renewed yearly to update the number of employees. Names can also be taken off the list at the time of renewal as well.

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