According to state law, school board members cannot be appointed if they have certain criminal convictions on their record. Unfortunately, most schools don’t know whether or not members have criminal histories, because they are not normally a group who receives background checks. That’s why the Stroudsburg School Board has been discussing whether or not these checks should be implemented.
In order to determine whether or not a school board member has a disqualifying crime on their record, they must go through a background check. Not all board members agree that this should be done though. This week, the Stroudsburg School Board debated the issue, and the discussion grew rather heated. After much debate, they voted to table the motion. The vote to put off the discussion for another time included 5 votes to wait and 3 to move forward with a decision.
One board member, Judy Magann, believes they should have to go through the same background check process as parents in the PTA and coaches who work with children. They play a pivotal role in the lives of students and the operation of their school, and so they should be held to a high standard. Additionally, how would they be able to comply with state laws if they can’t run the needed background checks? It could make them liable if something were to happen in the future, if the involved school board member had a disqualifying crime on his or her record.
Richard Pierce, another board member, disagrees, saying board members do not have the same access to students as coaches and so should not need to go through a background check. He said he never interacts with students one-on-one. The school district’s attorney, Dan Corveleyn stated that the board could not enforce mandatory checks since the state doesn’t require them. This seems to contradict the state’s law concerning board members and criminal histories though. It seems the Stroudsburg School Board has stumbled across a loophole in the system.
Magann assured her peers that the purpose of the checks was not to remove a current member from the board, but to prevent unworthy and perhaps dangerous individuals from gaining that position. Others believe the talks have all been hypothetical and the discussions should only continue once concrete evidence has been found.
John Jakobsen is shocked why anyone would be against the idea of implementing background checks. All of them are on the school board because of their dedication to children and education, so to him, it should follow that all the members would consider the safety of those children a priority, with leaders like themselves being held accountable as well.
Specifically, the Pennsylvania Constitution states that no person with a crime that involves embezzlement, bribery, perjury, or other infamous crimes should be allowed to serve on a school board. With this, it appears the law was meant to avoid the misuse of school funds and not necessarily to prevent bodily harm from coming to the children. Still, it appears that the board will not discuss the matter again, unless someone can provide evidence that one of the members has been convicted of such an offense.
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Author: Michael Klazema